A look into the controversy surrounding the north lockdowns

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A look into the controversy surrounding the north lockdowns

Many across the North of England were given a few hours notice before being placed under a series of local lockdowns intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

All of Greater Manchester is covered by the restrictions, while parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire are also subject to the local lockdown.

People are now not supposed to meet up with those outside their household in an indoor setting or in private gardens, so there’s no more meeting up with family members whether it be inside a home or somewhere like a pub or restaurant.

England Health secretary Matt Hancock said people could still go out to pubs and restaurants, but only with other members of their household, as the government’s “eat out to help out” scheme is launched.

Hancock came in for significant criticism over the timing of the announcement, both in regards to the lateness of the hour and the proximity to Eid.

What are the precise details of the local lockdown and was it the right decision to impose it?

The Claim

The health secretary said it was “absolutely necessary” to impose a local lockdown on over four million people in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Hancock said “households gathering and not abiding by the social distancing rules” was one of the main reasons behind the need for a local lockdown, as the rate at which the virus was being spread had increased.

He warned that other areas could be subject to a local lockdown in the near future and insisted the government wouldn’t hesitate to impose restrictions on an area if they believed it to be necessary.

The government would like to avoid imposing a nationwide lockdown once again if they can help it, preferring to tackle the pandemic with targeted local lockdowns in areas where the virus appears to be making a comeback.

A major incident was declared in Greater Manchester, one of the areas affected by the local lockdown, to help make the response as effective as possible.

A Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) spokesperson said people shouldn’t be alarmed at the phrase “major incident”, with the move taken to make it easier for public agencies to access any resources they might need.

The Daily Mail reports that the government is considering banning travel in and out of areas affected by local lockdowns to prevent the virus from spreading further and necessitating another national lockdown.

The Counter Claim

The government has been accused of causing “confusion and distress” with their local lockdown, announcing late on Thursday night that new restrictions were due to come into effect at midnight.

A Q&A on the changes was only published on the government’s website 22 minutes past midnight, while prime minister Boris Johnson held a press conference explaining the changes on Friday.

A statement from GMCA “strongly recommended” full details of local lockdowns should be made clear to the public when the decision is taken, rather than trying to explain the specifics several hours after restrictions had come into place.

Several areas covered by the local lockdown are wondering why they have been hit with restrictions when they aren’t doing badly in terms of the pandemic.

The Manchester Evening News reports Wigan has the lowest infection rate in Greater Manchester but has still been forced to go into lockdown, leaving residents feeling as though they are being unfairly punished by a poorly targeted measure.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford, accused the government of making a “rash” decision which was not supported by the data.

He claimed the apparent spike in new coronavirus infections was due to a delay in test results and the data showed “no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on”.

The Facts

All 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester are subject to the local lockdown, meaning Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Trafford, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside and Wigan are all under restrictions.

In addition, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Bradford, Rossendale, Pendle, Hyndburn, Calderdale and Kirklees are also part of the local lockdown. If you’re under the jurisdiction of their councils then you’re part of the local lockdown.

The restrictions on meeting people not from your household indoors or in their garden will also apply to Leicester, which stayed on lockdown while the rest of England saw restrictions lifted. However, pubs and restaurants are allowed to open in the city from today onwards.

You can only be indoors with people from your household or your support bubble. It is still permitted to meet people outdoors in groups of no more than six, unless the groups are from just two households, and you should still follow social distancing guidelines when meeting.

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Going to cafes, pubs, restaurants and other public places where you will be indoors is still permitted, but you can only go with members of your household even if your destination is outside the restricted area.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest the rate of coronavirus infection is rising in England, with daily cases jumping up from 3,200 to 4,200 in the span of a week, while the rate of infection at the end of June was around 2,000 cases a day.

ONS data does not indicate a higher proportion of positive tests in any particular region. More testing is being done and that is going to result in more people showing up as having the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, there are concerns that the R rate for England, the average number of people infected by every person with coronavirus, has crept above 1 in some parts of the country.

Across England the R rate is estimated to be between 0.8 and 1, meaning the virus is either on the decline or holding steady, but in the North West and South West the R rate is somewhere between 0.8 and 1.1, meaning the virus could be infecting more people in those areas.

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