Boris Johnson will be making an announcement today confirming the new law effective Monday that makes gatherings of more than six people illegal, and a national curfew could be put in place.
This comes following a significant spike in Covid-19 cases, with almost 8,5000 positive tests being recording in England in the past three days.
The new rules in Bolton, unveiled by Matt Hancock, bars people from socialising outside of their household. It comes due to the Greater Manchester borough’s high Covid infection rate, 120 cases per 100,000.
Speaking of the new measures which were imposed with immediate effect, Hancock said: “We will restrict all hospitality to takeaway only, and will introduce a late-night restriction of operating hours which will mean all venues will be required to close from 10pm to 5am.
“We’ll introduce urgently further measures that put the current guidance that people cannot socialise outside their household into law.”
The Conservative leader of Bolton Council, councillor David Greenhalgh, said the measures were: “…not something we want to do but it is clear the virus is currently moving round the borough uncontrolled and so we need to halt the transmission rate”.
Greater Manchester now has the highest rate of infections in the country, reportedly due to young adults mixing in pubs and restaurants and ignoring social distancing rules, according to The Telegraph’s reports on Government data.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Government, chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser have jointly agreed that urgent action is necessary after seeing the number of daily positive cases rise to almost 3,000 recently.”
Additionally, police chiefs urged ministers to simplify the rules to make them easier to implement.
It is expected the Prime Minister will say: “We are strengthening the rules on social contact, making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.”
“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others and getting a test if you have symptoms.”
The new national rules will see £100 fines for those who break them and meet in groups greater than six people, indoors or outdoors. The fine will double for each repeat offence to a maximum of £3,200.
Repeated refusal to pay any fine is a criminal offence and can result in a court appearance, and ultimately could lead to a prison sentence.
The coronavirus case totals exceeded 350,000 and has been the highest since May, with Covid-related deaths hitting 32, the highest the UK has seen in weeks.
Matt Hancock has warned ministers that the UK is on the brink of a ‘second peak’. Adding: “Each and every citizen has a responsibility to follow social distancing and help stop a second peak.”
Scientists have warned that restrictions will need to be in place until the end of the year, which could potentially threaten Christmas celebrations.
A member of the Government’s SAGE advisory boar, John Edmunds, said: “The epidemic continues to increase and then we have Christmas.
“And that is very difficult. What is Christmas? Well it’s meeting with your family very close. Restaurants and pubs and stuff like that.
“It’s all high risk. And it’s all indoors.”
Prof Whitty said: “We have, through the extraordinary efforts of the whole population, got Covid rates right down.
“They are now rising again, especially in those aged 17 to 29. If we stop social distancing, Covid comes back.”
Earlier this week, Mr Hancock blasted young people, warning them not to ‘kill your gran’.
In parallel with the press conference later today, the government is expected to launch a new public information campaign starting Wednesday to reiterate ‘handwashing and mask use’.
Primark confirm Trafford Centre store will open for 24 hours after lockdown
It was reported earlier this month that Primark wanted to open some of its stores for 24 hours after lockdown ended.
The budget retailer has now confirmed the news, with 11 stores across the UK set to open for 24 hours next week.
Primark plans to re-open its stores in England next Wednesday, December 2nd, with all stores seeing extended trading hours.
This is to cater for expected higher demand before Christmas, and to help reduce queues in a bid to help social distancing.
While Primark stores in retail parks and shopping centres can trade until 10pm at a minimum, 11 will be open for 24 hours – including the Trafford Centre branch.
Stores open 24 hours will open from 7am on Wednesday December 2nd and trade until their normal closing time on Thursday December 3rd.
List of updated opening times for most Primark stores:
- Town High Street: these stores will be open until 8pm
- Town Shopping Centres: these will also trade until 8pm
- Retail Parks: stores here will trade until 10pm as a minimum
- Major Shopping Centres: these will also trade until 10pm as a minimum
- Major High Street Stores: the majority of these will trade until 10pm
The full list of stores opening 24 hours:
- Trafford Centre
- York Monks Cross
- Leeds White Rose
- Birmingham Fort
- White City
- Gateshead Metrocentre
Primark’s CEO, Paul Marchant, said: “We are delighted to re-open our stores in England on 2 December, with longer shopping hours to give our customers more time to safely do their festive shopping.
“We have everything this season that our customers expect from Primark, including our famous Christmas jumpers, festive pyjamas and much, much more.
“All of our extensive safety measures remain in place to help ensure shopping at Primark is an enjoyable, safe experience for everyone.”
Why London is Tier 2 but Manchester is back in Tier 3
‘We’ve not seen the demand rises’
The latest news of which areas are to be placed in the new system’s toughest tier, Tier 3, have sparked outrage online.
Comparisons are being made on the vastly different Covid-19 infection rates across towns and cities in England.
Yesterday, the question ‘how is London in Tier 2 when it has an R rate of 1-1.2 and cases increasing by as much as 3% a day?’ was trending on Twitter. In comparison, the R rate for the North West is 0.8-1 with cases falling as much as 3% per day.
Some of the North’s Conservative politicians aren’t being as reserved as Andy Burnham, who responded to the news on BBC Radio Manchester by saying ‘I’m not disagreeing with the Government’s decision’.
Chris Green, MP for Bolton West and Atherton hinted that he thinks the government might be looking at some regions more favourably than others. He said: “I will look forward to reading the analysis that the government must have done.
“Matt Hancock said that Cornwall is in T1 because of how well people have behaved. Does he spend much time there or has it been reported to him? I would like to see that report and the GM version.”
In London, the Covid-19 picture varies across boroughs, much like in Greater Manchester. For instance, in Havering, the rate is 342 cases per 100,000 people.
Eight of the 32 boroughs are above the national average and thirteen are higher than the rate found in Trafford in Greater Manchester.
Other areas, such as Camden, have rates of 88 cases per 100,000 people. The overall infection rate is 182 cases per 100,000 people, down from 196 the week prior.
In light of the rate of infections, most commentators considered London to be on the edge of being placed in Tier 3.
However, while the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals is increasing, it has not hit levels compared to the first spike of infections earlier this year.
In the height of the first spike, 160 Covid patients were in three hospitals in West London with 122 requiring ventialation.
Now, the chief executive of the trust that runs the three hospitals say they have 44 patients with positive tests, taking up 16% of all beds. Of those, 28 are in critical care and only 22 require ventilators.
Professor Tim Orchard, the chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We’ve not seen the demand rises that some parts of the country have.
“We have however seen some of our partner trusts have some more pressure on their acute services.”
To compare, while Greater Manchester’s overall situation has improved in recent weeks it is acknowledged that the overall spread remains very high.
The average infection rate for the region is 276 per 100,000 people. The national figure is 208.
In Oldham on November 4th, this figure was above 800. Now, the rate has fallen by 30% but there are still 388 cases per 100,000 people.
Rates are falling across all ten boroughs but that only began recently. There were more than 600 new Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester last week, with more than 1,000 patients in intensive care and high dependency units.
Burnham explained the hospital figures as ‘significant but modest reductions’. Essentially, in Greater Manchester the infection rate is currently above average but decreasing faster than England as a whole.
So, while we’re in Tier 3 now, we’re on the right path to get out of it.
The Greater London Authority and Mayor Sadiq Khan said Tier 2 as a city-wide approach across London was the ‘right and sensible option’, despite some local MPs calling for a borough by borough assessment.
Boris Johnson, former mayor, agrees with Khan. He said: “The incidence is different in different parts of the city, but there are many things that unite London and encourage transmission across its vast network and I am afraid that is still I think the most sensible way of dealing with it.”
In Greater Manchester, the services are run by ten unitary authorities, however, the area has been dealt with as a single entity with the government making its tier assessment on that basis.
Tory MP, William Wragg (Hazel Grove) said he will be voting against the new tier system, and asked other MPs to do the same. Sir Graham Brady (Tory MP for Altrincham and Sale West) has added he will do the same.
Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish said he was ‘minded to oppose’ the proposal. He said: “This will be a heavy blow for the hospitality businesses across Denton and Reddish who have invested heavily in Covid-secure measures to allow them to reopen safely.
“I will look very carefully at the measures to be brought before Parliament.
“I support the new tougher enforcement powers to ensure business compliance with Covid regulations, but I don’t support the arbitrary singling out of the hospitality sector, which all the data shows is responsible for around just 3% of transmissions.
“What we actually need is to protect the most vulnerable, and roll-out proper localised testing and contact tracing.”
Asda shoppers spot brilliant ‘hidden message’ on delivery driver’s badges
This is amazing!
Asda has launched a brilliant new initiative to help combat loneliness this Christmas, which has been especially heightened by recent lockdown measures.
With help from the Royal Voluntary Service, Asda is working with delivery drivers and in-store Community Champions to tackle social isolation in the community.
From yesterday, Asda’s 7,500 delivery drivers will have the option to add something new to their uniform, a ‘Happy to Chat’ badge.
The message on this new badge lets customers know they’re happy to have a quick chat with them while their shopping is being delivered.
And it’s needed more than ever at the moment, as according to the Royal Voluntary Service 13% of people are experiencing loneliness, with over a third (39%) unable to see friends and family, and a quarter left without any support nearby.
A lot of people only see delivery drivers and other delivery workers while they self-isolate, and 1 in 4 said they looked forward to seeing them just to have someone to talk to.
The badges will be particularly useful for some, as 42% of people said they shy away from starting a conversation as they don’t want to be a burden, while 25% would be more likely to start a conversation if they knew the other person was ‘Happy to Chat’ too.
Anna-Maree Shaw, Asda’s chief customer officer, said: “It’s a challenging time for everyone, especially those experiencing loneliness.
“While Asda colleagues have always made an effort to have a quick chat and raise a smile, we want to make sure that whether it’s in our stores, at the doorstep or in the community – we’re here for customers this Christmas.”
Sam Ward, deputy chief executive at the RVS, said: “Royal Voluntary Service is incredibly proud to be part of such a wonderful initiative alongside Asda.
“We all understand that Christmas can be difficult for those who are on their own and that this year stands to be trickier than ever.
“With the help of this fantastic project, it shows that even just a little Christmas kindness will go a long way in making the festive season easier for those in need.”
You can find out more here.