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MILLIONS of Brits across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were banned from meeting up indoors tonight as ministers scrambled to stop Covid-19 “bubbling up”.
The orders came as England was hit with 846 new positive cases – the highest number in 32 days – adding to fears the country is facing a second wave of the virus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was introducing the clampdown for 4.5million people with a “heavy heart” but was chilled by soaring infection rates in Northern England.
And he said the spread was “largely due to households meeting and not abiding by social distancing rules”.
So from midnight members of different households are outlawed from meeting indoors and the government has not yet ruled out going further if that did not get the infection rate down.
The affected areas include all of 2.8 million residents of Greater Manchester, as well as the Lancashire towns of Blackburn, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendelle.
And in Yorkshire, Bradford Calderdale and Kirklees were also hit. Leicester was also included in the ban, but previous more severe restrictions there will be lifted so pubs and restaurants can open.
The Department of Health confirmed it applies to all indoor settings – so it means although pubs and restaurants will remain open, two households cannot meet there.
The new restrictions have been announced on the first day of Eid, with later clarification that celebrations can take place at places of worship as long as social distancing is observed, but not in private homes.
Leicester MP Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: “Pubs, restaurants & hairdressers will reopen but not gyms, Leisure centres, swimming pools.
“But no household mixing other than bubbles. People cannot stay overnight at another house or meet in private gardens.”
The hotspots were slapped with the special measure as part of the government’s strategy to use rolling localised lockdowns to try avoid a wider national second lockdown.
As of now pubs and shops in the affected area would remain open, but ministers did not rule out going further if this attempt to control the virus did not work.
But defending the move, Mr Hancock insisted he was ‘determined to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe.’
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Over recent days, there has been a marked change in the picture across Greater Manchester with regard to the spread of Covid-19.
“We have gone from a falling rate of cases in nearly all of our boroughs last week to a rising rate in nine out of 10 affecting communities across a much wider geography.
“I ask all Greater Manchester residents – young and old alike – to protect each other by observing these new requirements.
“They will be reviewed weekly; meaning the more we stick to them, the quicker they will be removed.”
The shock announcement came after Boris Johnson warned between ten and 30 places in Britain are seeing Covid-19 cases “bubbling up”.
Speaking in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, the PM said today: “There are between ten and 30 places where you are seeing it bubbling up a little bit.”
Mr Johnson continued: “I think the country as a whole understands that the best way to deal with this is if we have tough local lockdowns to get it under control in those towns.”
Last week we told how Blackburn overtook Leicester to become Britain’s coronavirus hotspot after cases doubled in just one week.
And the shocking data that spooked ministers today showed Blackburn hit by 85.3 cases per 100,000, Leicester with 57.7, Oldham with 53.1, Bradford 44.9, Trafford 39.9, Rochdale 30.9.
LANCASHIRE was on lockdown last night after Boris Johnson warned that between ten and 30 places are seeing Covid-19 cases “bubbling up”.The PM’s warning, on a visit to Northallerton, North Yorks, came as the UK recorded 846 new cases — the highest number in 32 days — raising fears of a second wave.Mr Johnson said of the at-risk northern towns: “I think the country understands that the best way to deal with this is if we have tough local lockdowns.“It’s vital we keep our focus and discipline and that we don’t delude ourselves that this is all over — because it isn’t all over.”
This evening Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Sec of State for Work and Pensions and MP for Stalybridge, said: “I appreciate there are lots of questions arising from this and as soon as more information is available I will share it.”
He added: “We got the figures this morning and 9 out of the 10 GM Boroughs are showing an increase in infections, including in Tameside, where positive tests per 100,000 populations has gone from 4.9 to 16.3.”
She tweeted: “This has been an unbelievably difficult period for our city but peoples hard work & sacrifices have paid off.
“However, the Govt’s handling of this lockdown has been totally shambolic and lessons must be learnt for the future to prevent others going through the same.”
Blackburn with Darwen, Leicester, Oldham, Bradford and Trafford are the places with the highest rates of the virus per 100,000 people.
It comes as new figures released today show England had the highest number of excess deaths in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.
By the week ending May 29, England had a relative cumulative age-standardised mortality rate of 7.55% – meaning it was 7.55% higher than the average mortality rate between 2015 and 2019.
Although Spain had the biggest spike in excess mortality – deaths from all causes, not just coronavirus, above the five year average – England has had the longest continuous period with more deaths than usual.
And worrying data shows the number of new Covid-19 infections has risen by more than a third in just two days.
It means 737 Britons are being diagnosed with the disease every 24 hours, on average — the highest level since July 3, when the average stood at 749.
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock has denied the Government is pushing “hysteria” and insisted a second wave of coronavirus is rolling across Europe.
The under-fire Health Secretary this morning expressed concerns over the number of cases in not just Europe but across the globe.
He was quickly blasted for scaremongering, with senior MPs accusing him of acting like the “Grim Reaper”.
They urged him to to use a “stiletto not a sledgehammer” to tackle fresh Covid outbreaks.
Appearing on Sky News, Mr Hancock vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the virus peaking again in Britain.
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News – Two households banned from meeting indoors in Manchester and West Yorkshire