More than one million people can again mix in different households from next week, after Covid-19 restrictions were eased in parts of northern England.
From Wednesday, social gatherings can take place between two homes in Bolton, Stockport, Trafford, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.
The decision came after local political leaders submitted their recommendations to the Government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We brought in measures to protect people in these parts of northern England, and I want to thank residents who have worked so hard to get on top of this virus.
“We’re seeing the positive results of our local approach, and are able to bring in increasingly targeted measures.
“It is vital we can maintain this good progress.
“I have every faith people across the country, especially in areas where we are seeing higher numbers of cases, will continue to play their part by following local rules, and self-isolating and requesting a free test as soon as they get any symptoms.”
Data showed coronavirus cases per 100,000 decreased during the week ending August 20 in Burnley from 52 to 24.6, in Bolton from 25.6 to 18.9, in Stockport from 23 to 15.1 and in Trafford from 27.1 to 17.8, said the Department of Health and Social Care.
The lifting of the measures in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees excludes the Bradford city area, the Keighley town area, Halifax, Dewsbury and Batley.
Residents in Manchester, Rochdale, Bury, Tameside, Salford, Preston and Leicester will also still be banned from visiting others in their homes or gardens.
In addition, people in Oldham and parts of Blackburn and Pendle, where infection rates are the highest in the country, will still not be able to socialise with anyone outside their household anywhere.
Gary Hall, deputy chairman of the Lancashire Resilience Forum, which is leading the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, said: “If we continue on this path I am hopeful that all parts of Lancashire will have the remaining restrictions lifted soon, but this depends on people following the rules wherever they live in the county.”
Council leaders in Trafford told the Government at its now weekly review that restrictions should have been maintained, following advice from its own director of public health.
Working closely with local leaders, we have updated some local #COVID19 restrictions.
Positive progress from local areas means restrictions will be lifted in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Yorkshire next week.
Full list of changes: ➡️ https://t.co/aQ3088oQRm
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) August 28, 2020
Andrew Western, Labour leader of Trafford Council, said: “It is apparent that for all of their claims of working in collaboration with local authorities, the Government has decided to overrule the council and lift restrictions in Trafford.
“This action by Government makes a mockery of the claims of locally led decision-making and once again shows that local government is being ignored in spite of being on the front line of this crisis.”
Last week, Mr Hancock announced a more targeted approach to Covid-19 restrictions, in which the views of MPs would also be sought to gain “the maximum possible local consensus”.
He added this would allow local councils to focus resources on the wards which need more targeted intervention in order to drive infection rates down.
However the Labour council leaders in West Yorkshire criticised that approach as “confusing” and said the intervention of Tory backbench MPs “undermines council leadership”.