PEOPLE from different households across Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire have been banned from meeting each other indoors - Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The announcement, which came unexpectedly and with a few hours notice late last night (Thursday, July 30), came into force at midnight.

The move comes as celebrations take place for the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha, which started on Thursday evening and continues over the weekend, and after the Government reimposed quarantine measures for those arriving in the UK from Spain and Luxembourg earlier this week.

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What are the new rules?

The new rules, which were introduced following a spike in virus cases, will also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, however these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

The Government said it will give police forces and councils powers to enforce the new rules – adding that some exemptions will be put in place, including for the vulnerable.

Social contact

For those live in one of the affected areas, in order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, you should not:

  •  meet people you do not live with inside a private home or garden, except where you have formed a support bubble (or for other limited exemptions to be specified in law).
  • visit someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside of the affected areas.
  • socialise with people you do not live with in other indoor public venues – such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions. You may attend these venues with people you live with (or are in a support bubble with), but should avoid interaction with others. If you run such a business, you should take steps to ensure people do not interact with people they do not live with, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance.

The government will pass new laws to enforce the changes to meeting people in private homes and gardens. The police will be able to take action against those that break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices (starting at £100 – halving to £50 if paid in the first 14 days – and doubling for subsequent offences).

What did Matt Hancock say?

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Hancock said “households gathering and not abiding by the social-distancing rules” was a reason for the stricter rules and it was in order to “keep the country safe”.

He said: “We take this action with a heavy heart but unfortunately it’s necessary because we’ve seen that households meeting up and a lack of social distancing is one of the causes of this rising rate of coronavirus and we’ll do whatever is necessary to keep the country safe.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham welcomed the measures, which he said would be reviewed on a weekly basis.

Mr Hancock added: “We’re constantly vigilant and we’ve been looking at the data, and unfortunately we’ve seen across parts of northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.

“So, today (Thursday), I held a meeting of the Government’s Gold Committee and working with local leaders, including, for instance, Andy Burnham the mayor of Greater Manchester, we’ve decided that we need to take action across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.

“So, from Friday we are banning households meeting up indoors.”

Which areas did the coronavirus rate go up across England?

In 13 of the 19 affected local authority areas affected, the rate of Covid-19 in the seven days to July 27 has gone up, with 1,536 cases recorded across all the areas in the space of a week.

Blackburn with Darwen tops the list as the rate has risen from 83.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 20 to 89.3 in the seven days to July 27. A total of 133 new cases have been recorded.

Leicester is in second place, where the seven-day rate has fallen from 67.8 to 60.2, with 214 new cases.

Oldham in Greater Manchester has seen its seven-day rate increase from 23.3 to 54.3, with 128 new cases, while in Pendle, Lancashire the rate went from 27.4 to 42.7, with 39 new cases.

In Trafford, Greater Manchester the seven-day rate is up from 15.2 to 41.0, with 97 new cases and in Calderdale, West Yorkshire – which includes the town of Halifax, the rate is up from 20.9 to 33.8, with 71 new cases.

The new restrictions apply to the whole of Greater Manchester, which includes the 10 local authority areas of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

Parts of East Lancashire are affected including Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle (which includes the towns of Colne and Nelson), Rossendale.

Parts of West Yorkshire including Bradford, Calderdale (which includes the town of Halifax) and Kirklees (which includes the town of Huddersfield) are also impacted.

The same restrictions will also apply to Leicester, which saw the first so-called “local lockdown” imposed on June 29.

Mr Burnham said “by not acting selfishly” the measures could be removed more quickly.

He added: “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. In Rochdale, the one borough where cases have fallen, they are still too high.

“We have always said that we will remain vigilant and be ready to respond quickly should the need arise.

"In line with that approach, I have agreed with the Health Secretary that it is right to act on the precautionary principle and introduce modest measures now to bring down the rate of new infections.

“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.

“This is a place which prides itself on looking out for each other. We now need to be true to that by not acting selfishly and keeping the health of others in mind at all times.”

Where could be next?

Public Health England have revealed the towns and cities with the current highest rates of coronavirus infections.

The updated list is based on figures from the seven days to July 26, and on tests carried out in laboratories and in the wider community.

Here are the 15 areas of England that currently have the highest coronavirus infection rates, based on the latest PHE figures. The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people, and is compared with the rate from the previous seven days from July 19.

The areas highlighted below in bold were announced overnight and had 'local lockdown' restrictions imposed as of Friday, July 31.

  • Blackburn with Darwen - 87.3 (up from 81.2)
  • Oldham - 56.4 (up from 18.7)
  • Leicester - 56.3 (down from 73.2)
  • Bradford - 47.3 (up from 42.6)
  • Trafford - 38.1 (up from 11.0)
  • Rochdale - 35.0 (down from 47.7)
  • Sandwell - 32.4 (up from 23.2)
  • Hyndburn - 32.2 (down from 39.6)
  • Pendle - 31.7 (up from 30.6)
  • Eden - 30.3 (down from 32.1)
  • Calderdale - 29.0 (up from 23.3)
  • Melton - 27.4 (up from 7.8)
  • Manchester - 23.2 (up from 14.2)
  • Northampton - 21.3 (down from 28.0)
  • Swindon - 21.2 (up from 8.1)

For more information on the new restrictions go to gov.uk