PRESTON will be plunged into a local lockdown from midnight TONIGHT with extra measures slapped on the town's residents.
Restrictions on indoor gatherings in Leicester and the North West will stay in place and Bedford and Swindon have been added to the lockdown "watch list".
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Greater Manchester and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire have all been thrown back into lockdown after new cases of coronavirus spiked.
People living within the hotspot areas are no longer able to meet one another inside homes, private gardens or any other indoor areas.
They must follow these rules even where visiting people in areas without outbreaks.
Residents of Preston will have the same measures from midnight tonight after the number of new cases surged.
People are still able to meet others in groups up to 6 individuals, or 2 households, in outdoor public places.
The areas already in lockdown won't be able to have restrictions eased because infection rates still aren't coming down.
The latest announcement means:
- People in Preston won't be allowed to mix with other households indoors from tonight
- The current rules on social gatherings will continue in parts of the North West, West Yorkshire and Leicester, following a review
- Pools, indoor gyms and other leisure facilities will continue to remain closed in Leicester, Bradford and Blackburn
- Shielding will also continue for individuals in Blackburn with Darwen, and Leicester City
Rotherham in South Yorkshire has been removed off of the watch list of places with outbreaks thanks to a fall in cases.
The Government's watch list looks at infection rates in areas of concern where officials can work with local authorities to try and keep cases down and avoid local lockdowns.
Matt Hancock said today: "Yesterday I chaired a meeting of the Local Action Gold Committee, and unfortunately, the data does not yet show a decrease in the transmission of this terrible virus.
"It means we must keep the current restrictions in place to allow more time for the impact of this ban on indoor gatherings to be felt, and make sure local residents and their loved ones are protected. At the request of the local area we are also extending these restrictions to Preston.
“We are constantly examining the data on the prevalence of the virus in these areas, and we will review the measures again next week."
Preston recorded 49 new cases of coronavirus in the week to 31 July, more than double the week before when there were 22 – putting the town at almost 35 cases per 100,000 population.
In an attempt to avoid having lockdown measures forced upon them, Preston Local Council had already advised people living in the city to avoid having visitors to their homes.
Preston City Council chief executive Adrian Phillips said: "The number of cases in Preston have increased rapidly in recent days leading to Government categorising the city as an area of intervention.
"It is also alarming to see that the under-30s are contracting it at a significant rate.
"It is clear that coronavirus is still here and we all need to work together to keep ourselves, our friends, families and communities safe from this virus.
"While some wards have recorded a higher level of cases, this remains a city-wide issue and it's essential that we all do our part to fight the virus.
"We're urging everyone to be diligent and follow the restrictions, in order to protect all of our residents, communities and businesses."
The full list of places with indoor gatherings banned
- City of Manchester
- Blackburn with Darwen
Nine Conservative MPs in Greater Manchester wrote to Mr Hancock slamming the regional lockdowns as "crude and ineffective" and demanding a hyper-local approach.
They said: “Measures must be taken on a borough-by-borough basis and on a town-by-town basis in boroughs where there are only one or two coronavirus hotspots but the rates in other parts of the borough are low.”
The threat of more local lockdown comes as the Government prepares to reopen schools for all pupils in September – and a major study warned this week that this could cause a second wave of Covid-19 if the Test & Trace system isn't up to scratch.
Many of the local areas seeing spikes have implemented their own contact tracing systems, relying on local knowledge of the area, after the national service failed to pick up enough contacts.
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