No socialising under tighter measures in parts of northern England

Restrictions on households meeting and attendances at weddings and funerals have been tightened in some parts of the north of England, but a feared local lockdown has been avoided.

People in Oldham in Greater Manchester, as well as Pendle and Blackburn in Lancashire will be told not to socialise with anyone outside their household from midnight on Saturday.

They are also being advised to avoid using public transport unless it is essential.

Rate of new Covid-19 cases in Oldham
Rate of new Covid-19 cases in Oldham

The number of people attending weddings, civil partnerships and funerals should be no more than 20 people, made up of household members and close family only, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Friday’s announcement stopped short of a localised lockdown – where businesses would be closed – which Oldham’s council leader Sean Fielding had earlier this week warned could be “catastrophic” for businesses.

He tweeted: “We have reached agreement with the Government that Oldham will not go in to full local economic lockdown. Some additional restrictions will be introduced, however.”

The Government said people can still shop and go to work and that schools and other childcare settings will open as normal under the new restrictions.

Also on Friday it was announced that Birmingham is being added to a watch list as an “area of enhanced support” and Northampton becomes an “area of intervention”.

Restrictions in Wigan, Rossendale and Darwen will be released, the department said.

***BREAKING***

We have reached agreement with the Government that Oldham will not go in to full local economic lockdown. Some additional restrictions will be introduced, however. More to follow… pic.twitter.com/AUO3PeHOCI

— Sean Fielding (@cllrsfielding) August 21, 2020

Figures published on Thursday showed there had been 187 new cases recorded in Oldham in the seven days to August 17 – the equivalent of 78.9 per 100,000 people.

This was a decrease from 111.8 in the seven days to August 10.

Pendle’s latest weekly rate was also down to 64.1, while Blackburn with Darwen was 67.5.

The new restrictions will not apply in the Darwen area of the Blackburn with Darwen upper tier local authority area, parts of Pendle, in Rossendale or in Wigan.

But they do come on top of the existing ban on indoor gatherings of more than two households in place across parts of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Working with local leaders we agreed further action in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn. It is vital that everyone in these areas follow the advice of their councils, and abide by their local rules carefully.

“Our approach is to make the action we take as targeted as possible, with the maximum possible local consensus.

“To do that we are introducing a new process to increase engagement between local leaders, both councils and MPs, with the aim of taking as targeted action as possible.

“This will allow local councils to focus resources onto the wards which need more targeted intervention in order to drive infection rates down, and gives local people a stronger voice at the table.”