Covid lockdowns to be eased for over 1m people in north-west England

Households will be able to mix in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire

More than 1 million people in north-west England will be allowed to mix with other households for the first time in a month after a fall in coronavirus cases.

Restrictions on seeing friends and family will be lifted from next week in the Greater Manchester boroughs of Bolton, Stockport and Trafford, as well as Burnley and Hyndburn in Lancashire.

People in parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees in West Yorkshire will be able to mix with other households from Wednesday, but the measures will remain in place in large parts of Bradford as well as Halifax, Dewsbury and Batley.

The move follows a week of intense lobbying of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, by fellow Tory MPs who wanted a more localised approach to the restrictions, while Labour-run councils said such a move would create confusion and division.

The announcement for West Yorkshire means many of the more deprived inner-city communities, where many of the cases have been concentrated, will remain bound by the restrictions imposed on 31 July while more affluent neighbourhoods will not. Labour MPs complained that large parts of the city would remain in the restrictions even though some areas had no recent cases.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said this week that such an approach was a “recipe for utter confusion, division and chaos” and would be completely unworkable.

He wrote to Hancock on Wednesday, along with the region’s 10 council leaders, to warn against the ward-by-ward approach being suggested by Tory MPs including the Philip Davies in Shipley, Jason McCartney in Colne Valley and Dewsbury’s Mark Eastwood.

Hancock said the fall in confirmed cases across the north-west meant the government was “seeing the positive results of our local approach, and are able to bring in increasingly targeted measures”.

He added: “It is vital we can maintain this good progress. I have every faith people across the county, 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.”

The announcement comes a week after Hancock asked for MPs and councils to work together to reach “the maximum possible local consensus” on where restrictions should be lifted. However, in most cases Tory MPs and Labour councils remain divided.

Graham Brady, the Conservative chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, is thought to have asked for part of his constituency, Trafford, to be removed from the measures despite the local council warning it was too early.

Andrew Western, the 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 frontline of this crisis.”

Mike Kane, a Labour MP whose constituency partly covers Trafford, accused the government of “playing politics with people’s health”. He said it was especially irresponsible to announce the lifting of restrictions at the start of a bank holiday weekend.

In Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn – which have the highest coronavirus infection rates in England – a ban remains in place on households mixing anywhere. A ban on two households mixing indoors remains in place in Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Bury, Tameside and Preston.

Contributor

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
What are the new lockdown rules in northern England?
All you need to know about the updated coronavirus measures affecting more than 4m people

Simon Murphy Political correspondent

31, Jul, 2020 @1:12 PM

Article image
Councils in north-west England ask for Covid lockdown to remain as cases rise
Restrictions were due to be lifted but Bolton and Trafford leaders are alarmed at high infection rate

Josh Halliday and Helen Pidd

01, Sep, 2020 @2:08 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson's Covid plan in turmoil after north-west leaders refuse tier 3
Greater Manchester mayor says he will not let region’s people be ‘canaries in coalmine’

Peter Walker, Helen Pidd, Larry Elliott and Heather Stewart

15, Oct, 2020 @7:15 PM

Article image
Police and MPs criticise last-minute coronavirus lockdown in north of England
Muslim leaders say groups are being scapegoated as late-night announcement causes anger

Josh Halliday , Nazia Parveen, Peter Walker and Ben Quinn

31, Jul, 2020 @12:05 PM

Article image
All staff across three NHS trusts in north-west England being urgently tested
Mass testing rolled out across Stockport, Bolton and Blackpool after rise in cases in region

Mattha Busby and Josh Halliday

01, Aug, 2020 @5:42 PM

Article image
Covid: Greater Manchester running out of intensive care beds, leak reveals
NHS document shows no spare beds for patients in Salford, Stockport and Bolton

Denis Campbell and Peter Walker

18, Oct, 2020 @7:18 PM

Article image
Ministers and north of England leaders clash over further Covid restrictions
Decision expected on whether to extend tier 3 rules to Greater Manchester and Lancashire

Josh Halliday and Jessica Elgot

14, Oct, 2020 @7:18 PM

Article image
Local Covid lockdowns expected to end in parts of north-west England
Health secretary set to lift restrictions in areas of Greater Manchester and Lancashire

Amy Walker

28, Aug, 2020 @1:19 PM

Article image
Concerns raised over long Covid impact on north-west England
Report says impact likely to be greater in region owing to employment and economic inequalities

Josh Halliday and Helen Pidd

21, May, 2021 @1:02 PM

Article image
‘Lockdowns by stealth’: what are the rules in eight areas of England?
The government has been criticised for imposing guidance on India Covid variant hotspots

Helen Pidd and Ian Sample

25, May, 2021 @2:52 PM