EVEN Matt Hancock is confused by the new lockdown rules after saying the opposite of official guidance in a television interview this morning.
The Health Secretary today appeared to contradict Government advice after issuing new lockdown rules for 4.5 million Brits with just three hours notice.
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Mr Hancock last night revealed households in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were banned from meeting each other indoors from today.
After a broadcast round that saw the senior minister repeatedly insist the new rules were “crystal clear”, Mr Hancock has now appeared to mix them up himself.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast, he said: “The evidence is that places of work are less of an impact.
“People should abide by the social distancing guidelines, strictly the laws we are bringing in is that households cannot meet in the area defined.
“But obviously any two households who are meeting should follow the social distancing guidelines.”
Asked if a household from one of these regions could go outside the lockdown area, Matt Hancock answered: “Following social distancing rules.”
His comments come despite the rules banning meeting in a private home or garden anywhere.
The new rules say: “You should not host or visit people you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble.
“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.”
The mixup came as England was hit with 846 new positive cases – the highest number in 32 days – adding to fears the country is facing a second wave of the virus.
But the sudden new rules – which means that people can still go to work and even visit shops and cafes – have left Brits reeling after they were introduced about 9.30pm, barely three hours before they were put into force.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to discuss the matter in his coronavirus press conference today.
What the new rules mean:
- You can go to the pub or a restaurant, but only with your household/bubble
- You can only be with members of your household or bubble in your home or garden
- You can celebrate Eid and go to a place of worship but only if you follow social distancing – celebrations with members outside your household cannot take place in your home or garden
- You can go on holiday but only with members of your household or bubble
About 4.5million people will be affected by the new lockdown rules – which are expected to be subject to a weekly review.
The affected areas include all of the 2.8million residents of Greater Manchester, as well as the Lancashire towns of Blackburn, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale.
West Yorkshire, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees were also hit.
Leicester was also included in the households ban, but pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will reopen on Monday.
However, leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed.
Earlier Mr Hancock has admitted Muslims living in the area will have their Eid celebrations affected.
He said: “My heart goes out to the Muslim community.
“I know that this will have a particular impact on Eid celebrations.
“We’ve been working with Imams and religious leaders to ensure that Eid celebrations can go ahead in a co-vid secure way in mosques and there are some really innovative proposals to celebrate in parks where social distancing is easier and there’s more space.
“But it does mean, for everybody, meetings between households won’t be possible and of course that has a particular impact when there’s a celebration like Eid coming up for the Muslim community. “
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi today slammed the “lack of clarity” over the message on Good Morning Britain, saying she had received calls up to 1am overnight by confused members of the community.
She said: “There is still not clarity on whether that means you can meet outdoors, thankfully there is still some clarification that those mosques that had prepared for Covid Eid prayers with the proper procedures would be allowed to go ahead.
“People have voluntarily been part of this response and I think it would have been better to do this with a little more understanding and clarity.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he would not argue with local action to reduce the transmission of the virus but said: “Announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.”
He added: “For all the bluster, government has failed to deliver a functioning track and trace system that would spot local flare ups like these.”
Lucy Powell, the MP for Manchester Central, said she had been “blindsided” by the new rules.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning was left trying to defend the move, saying the move had been “absolutely necessary”.
Speaking to Sky News, he said the new rules were “crystal clear”, saying the test and trace data had shown “most of the transmission is happening between households.
He added: “Everyone can see that the problem with this virus is it thrives on the social contact that makes life worth living.”
The Health Secretary had last night said he was introducing the new measures with a “heavy heart” – tweeting the announcement at 9.16pm with details published two hours later before the full guidelines were released this morning.
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Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said there had been a “marked change” across his boroughs in recent days.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, he said: “The truth of the matter is the pub is a more regulated environment, as is public transport where people are supposed to wear face masks.
“The home is a less regulated.”
And he defended the sudden introduction of the new guidelines, saying the virus could move “quickly”.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey wrote: “How this lockdown in Manchester, East Lancs & West Yorks has been introduced is worrying, confusing, frustrating and damaging.
“No-one doubts these are difficult decisions – but when lives of millions of people are involved, Ministers have a duty to communicate professionally.”
Others took issue with Wigan being included in the fresh lockdown rules, saying that it had been lumped in with Greater Manchester’s rise without recording an increase itself.
One local tweeted: “Wigan has the lowest rate of cases in Greater Manchester… it’s not our fault other parts of Manchester are letting the side down.”
Another added: “Wigan has 8 cases per 100,000 and is on lockdown. City of London has 18 cases per 100,000 and no lockdown. Wonder why that is.”
The shock announcement came after Boris Johnson warned between ten and 30 places in Britain are seeing Covid-19 cases “bubbling up”.
Speaking in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, the PM said yesterday: “There are between ten and 30 places where you are seeing it bubbling up a little bit.”