Late last night, residents of Greater Manchester as well as East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were told that they can no longer meet people from outside their household indoors due to an increasing rate of Covid-19 transmission in parts of Northern England.
More than four million people are affected.
The announcement provoked a lot of questions: exactly which areas are covered? Does ‘inside’ mean in restaurants and pubs as well as in houses? What can we do, and what can’t we?
Now, official guidance has been published by the government for the new restrictions, which came into effect from midnight last night – so here’s what the new rules mean, and where they cover.
Where in Manchester is affected?
The new restrictions apply across Greater Manchester.
- City of Manchester
When do the new rules come into play?
The new rules came into effect at midnight last night – so they must be observed immediately, from 31st July 2020.
“We’re constantly looking at the latest data on the spread of coronavirus, and unfortunately we’ve seen an increasing rate of transmission in parts of Northern England,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night on Twitter.
“We’ve been working with local leaders across the region, and today I chaired a meeting of the Local Action Gold Committee. Based on the data, we decided that in Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire & East Lancashire we need to take immediate action to keep people safe.
“The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing. So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas.
3/4 The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing. So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas. pic.twitter.com/Yy7wLbdh9V
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) July 30, 2020
“We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of covid across Europe and are determined to do whatever is neccessary to keep people safe.”
Why has this happened now? And how long will it last?
"We have a rising rate in 9 out of 10 [of Greater Manchester boroughs]"
Greater Manchester's Mayor @AndyBurnhamGM tells #BBCBreakfast the restrictions are "intended to prevent a more severe local lockdown"https://t.co/1ZhAAF92aq pic.twitter.com/u33f01hTyz
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) July 31, 2020
“Over recent days, there has been a marked change in the picture across Greater Manchester with regard to the spread of Covid-19,” said Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham in a statement.
“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 ten 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.”
What can’t you do?
According to the new rules, local residents 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).
Who can you see?
Your household – as defined in law – is only the people you live with.
If you have formed a support bubble (which must include a single adult household i.e. people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18) these can be treated as if they are members of your household, says the government advice.
It will be illegal for people who do not live together to meet in a private home or garden, except for limited exceptions to be set out in law.
You should not host or visit people you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble.
The advice says that if you live in the affected areas, you should not visit someone’s home or garden regardless of whether this is in or outside of the restricted area.
If you have formed a support bubble with another household, you can continue to visit each other, stay overnight, and visit other public places as if you were one household.
What about meeting outdoors?
In line with the national guidance, you can continue to meet in public outdoor spaces in groups of no more than six people, unless the group includes only people from two households.
But you cannot meet people you do not live within a private garden.
At all times, you should socially distance from people you do not live with, says official advice – unless they are in your support bubble.
Can I still go to cafes, restaurants and the gym?
Yes, says the guidance. But you should only go with members of your own household – even if you are going outside of the restricted area.
Can I still go to work?
Yes, says the advice. People living inside and outside of this area can continue to travel in and out for work.
Workplaces must implement Covid-19 Secure guidance.
What about celebrating Eid?
You may attend a mosque or other place or worship, where Covid-19 Secure guidance applies, but you must socially distance from people outside of your household, say the new rules.
You should not host or visit friends and family in each other’s homes or gardens, and you also should not meet friends and family in other venues – including restaurants or cafes.
Full full guidance, including on weddings, funerals, places of worship and care homes, see the latest official government advice.