Matt Hancock has announced new lockdown restrictions to be imposed in parts of northern England from midnight tonight (Thursday) due to a surge in coronavirus cases in the areas.
The health secretary’s surprise statement came only hours after the prime minister had urged the public not to “delude” themselves into thinking “that we are out of the woods or that this is all over, because it isn’t all over.”
Earlier the Office for National Statistics released findings that show England has seen the highest increase in death rates in European countries in the months up to the middle of June, with Scotland (4th), Wales (6th) and Northern Ireland (9th) on the list of nations hardest hit by the coronavirus.
The combined death-rates puts the UK second highest with Spain recording the third highest increase in excess deaths, confirming findings first reported in the spring.
PM ‘mourns loss of every life’
Boris Johnson, when asked if he was “ashamed” that the UK’s excess death rate was the highest in Europe during a visit to North Yorkshire today (Thursday), said: “We mourn every loss of life that we’ve had throughout the coronavirus epidemic.”
The PM also warned of a resurgence of the virus and, that while “we’ve got it [Covid-19] at the moment, under some measure of control”, he reminded: “But it can come up again, and we’ve seen what is happening in other European countries, so what I’m saying to people is don’t lose focus, don’t lose discipline, continue to observe those guidelines and if you have symptoms, get a test.”
The official death toll of Covid-19 related deaths in the UK rose by 38 the previous 24 hours to reach 45,999 on July 30, with 846 new cases reported – the highest daily number for a month.
Northern England’s new lockdown
Hancock’s intervention this evening – only hours before the restrictions come into effect at midnight – is due, he said to an “increasing rate of transmission” in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
“The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing,” said the health secretary, adding: “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.”
The new restrictions do not allow separate households to meet indoors and apply specifically to: Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. The same restrictions apply in Leicester which was the first part of the UK to see lockdown tightened.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester welcomed the announcement and said the new restrictions will be reviewed weekly, adding: “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.”