United Kingdom

UK re-introduces tight restrictions after alarming rise in Covid-19 infections

British secretary Matt Hancock, at a Covid-19 crisis meeting in London, June 2020
British secretary Matt Hancock, at a Covid-19 crisis meeting in London, June 2020 © 10 Downing Street/AF

British health minister Matt Hancock has announced that tighter restrictions are to be put in place in northern England, due to an alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 infections. As of midnight on Thursday, separate households were not be allowed to meet indoors in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.


Some four million people will be affected by the restrictions across parts of northern England, as the region faces a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections, according to the British health minister Matt Hancock.

"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 necessary to keep people safe," Hancock said on Twitter.

"The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing," he explained.

The new restrictions come just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic elsewhere in Europe.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, backed the measures due to an increase in infections.

"The picture in Greater Manchester has changed over the last seven days," he told the BBC.

"We have a rise in nine out of the 10 boroughs, the reality on the ground is changing."

He said all residents "young and old alike" should "protect each other" by observing the requirements, which will be reviewed weekly.

Residents will only be able to visit public places such as pubs and restaurants with people from their own household.

However, the new measures have come under criticism from the opposition Labour party.

"Announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government's communications during this crisis."

Restrictions a blow to Muslim celebration

They also come into force just as celebrations of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha begin. Areas affected by the latest lockdown have significant Muslim populations.

It is not the first local lockdown to be put in place -- England has lifted most of its restrictions nationally but imposed store closures around the central city of Leicester at the end of June.

Hancock said Leicester would now follow the same ban on meetings between different households being applied to Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.

New UK statistics comparing how the virus struck various regions showed England recording the most excess deaths in Europe in the first half of 2020.

Spain registered the second-highest toll in excess deaths -- defined as the number of fatalities registered in excess of the five-year average -- while Scotland saw the third-worst figures.

Britain's official virus death toll stands at 45,999 but is believed to be as high as 65,000 if excess deaths are used as a guide.

Britain's devolved health structure means England is following slightly different preventive measures from those in Scotland or Northern Ireland and Wales.


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