Lockdown changes due to take effect in England on Saturday have been postponed with hours to spare.
Plans to reopen bowling alleys, casinos and ice rinks in England from Saturday will be shelved.
Opposition party leaders were told of the change in a phone call this morning ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference at noon.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government has advised against travel to parts of northern England facing lockdown restrictions.
Wales is also urging people in the parts of the north of England where local lockdowns have been brought in to follow hand hygiene rules and social distancing if they visit Welsh beaches.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a press conference today that he was putting lockdown easing on hold because cases of the virus appeared to be rising for the first time since May.
He also defended the late-night imposition of lockdown restrictions in the north of England saying that officials “had to act quickly”.
“With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should squeeze that brake pedal… in order to keep the virus under control.
“On Saturday August 1, you’ll remember we had hoped to reopen a number of the higher-risk settings that had remained closed and today I’m saying we’re postponing those changes for at least a fortnight.
“That means until August 15 at the earliest casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and the remaining close-contact services must remain closed.
“Indoor performances will not resume, pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres will not take place, and wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted.”
You can see live updates from First Minister Mark Drakeford’s press conference on lockdown easing here, and details of all the announcements to lockdown changes that we know about here.
There has been an increase in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in England, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.
According to the ONS, between July 20 and 26 there were around 0.78 new Covid-19 infections for every 10,000 people in the community population in England.
This is equal to around 4,200 new cases per day. This is up from an estimated 2,800 new cases a day in the previous week.
He said: “We cannot be complacent and I won’t stand by and allow this virus to threaten to cause more pain and more heartache in our country.
“So that’s why last night the Health Secretary (Matt Hancock) announced new restrictions on household contact in the north west, specifically Greater Manchester and in parts of East Lancashire and in West Yorkshire.
“These are targeted measures on social contact between households which the data tells us is driving the current increase in cases.”
Boris Johnson said he understood that the latest announcement would be a “real blow” to people who had wedding plans or those who can no longer celebrate Eid in the ways they would wish.
“I’m really, really sorry about that, but we simply cannot take the risk. We will of course study the data carefully and move forward with our intention to open up as soon as we possibly can.
“Two weeks ago I also said that from tomorrow the Government would give employers more discretion over how employees can work safely, whether by continuing to work from home, or attending a Covid-secure workplace.
“And we know that employers have gone to huge lengths to make workplaces safe so that guidance remains unchanged.
“I also said that we would pause shielding nationally from August 1, based on clinical advice and that national pause will proceed as planned, and our medical experts will be explaining more about that decision and about the shielded group later today,” he added.
The Government was already facing fury over its “disastrous” announcement of new coronavirus rules for millions of people in northern England.
Chaos reigned after people in the whole of Greater Manchester, and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, were told they could no longer meet people from another household indoors.
The ban – which took effect from midnight at three hours’ notice – includes all indoor settings, be they private homes or pubs, as well as private gardens.
Not even some local public health directors knew about the announcement until Matt Hancock made it in a short video clip after 9pm.
A government Q&A on the changes was only published at 22 minutes past midnight. And while people will be fined £100 for breaking the rules, the law to enforce this doesn’t yet exist.
He told Sky News last night: “We have been looking at the data and unfortunately we’ve seen across parts of northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.”
On 17 July, Boris Johnson held a press conference to announce sweeping relaxations of lockdown rules, which were expected to take effect from tomorrow, Saturday August 1.
The biggest change announced was that employees would no longer be told they should work from home where possible, and instead should return to their workplaces where it’s safe to do so.
News – Lockdown changes in England are stopped as virus cases rise again