The UK government has urged a total of 5.7 million people, the equivalent of 10 percent of the population of England, to minimise travel and to meet outside rather than inside in order to curb the spread of the Indian CCP virus variant.
Addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a “strengthened package of support” will be provided for Greater Manchester and Lancashire to tackle rising infections of the Indian variant, also known as the Delta variant, of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
As part of government recommendations, people in affected areas are being urged to meet outside rather than inside where possible, keep up social distancing, and minimise travel in and out of the areas where the variant is spreading rapidly.
The areas are the local authorities of Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow, and North Tyneside, along with the 10 Metropolitan borough councils in Greater Manchester and the 12 local councils covered by Lancashire County Council.
Local directors of public health will also be able to reintroduce face coverings in communal areas in schools if they want to.
Hancock announced military support to help areas in the North West with testing, supervised in-school testing, and greater communication with disadvantaged groups.
He said the government faces a “challenging decision” over whether to lift remaining lockdown restrictions across England on June 21 as originally planned under Step 4 of the government’s official roadmap out of the CCP virus lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told members of his Cabinet that the data needs to continue to be scrutinised ahead of any decision on lifting restrictions.
“While the relationship between cases and hospitalisations has changed, we must continue to look at the data carefully ahead of making a decision on Step 4,” he said.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said that it was “very important to keep a sense of proportion” about the government announcement.
“This is guidance, it is advice to the public. It is not a lockdown. It is not a ban,” he said. “This is not about telling people to cancel their plans, it is about asking them to be careful in setting any new ones, to minimise non-essential travel.”
He said it was a “sensible approach given the rise in cases that we’ve seen” and that he was grateful to the government for the “joint approach that has been taken to date.”
PA contributed to this report.