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Matt Hancock explains that new rules are ‘crystal clear’, despite much public confusion

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Matt Hancock has described the new rules, announced late last night, as ‘crystal clear’ speaking this morning. 

The government have faced backlash this morning over the way they announced new localised restrictions in the North of England last night.

People in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were told they could no longer meet anybody from another household indoors.

The ban was announced at 9pm last night, coming into effect at 12pm.

Many people were confused as to what the new rules meant for them and expressed concerns regarding the announcement taking place via Matt Hancock’s Twitter account. 

A short video clip was released shortly after 9pm last night, however, some local public health directors did now know about the new announcement.

The government published its Q&A on the changes at 22 minutes past midnight. They also explained that people can face £100 fines for breaking the rules, despite explaining that the law does not yet exist.

Matt Hancock told Sky News today that the measures are ‘crystal clear’, adding a press conference will be held later today ‘at which more details will be put out and more of the questions will be answered.’ 

He said: “It’s absolutely crystal clear what the measure is. Which is that you shouldn’t socialise with people in other households except in public outdoor places – so not in your own home or your garden.

“You can go to the pub, but with members of your own household.”

Andy Burnham has also expressed concerns regarding the announcement. He told Sky News that ‘last night a lot of people I think felt very uncertain about what exactly was being announced.’

Adding: “So what I would say to them (ministers) is I understand the need to make announcements, I understand the need for decisive action.

“But when ministers go in front of the cameras, make sure you’ve got the detail ready to go exactly at the same time.”

Manchester Central MP and shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: “The way they’ve been announced has frankly been a bit of a disaster.

“Announcing them two hours before they come into effect is a bit of a bolt out of the blue with no-one around able to answer some of the basic questions, I really is not the way to build confidence and to take people with you and to maximise compliance with these steps.

“We really do need some real answers to basic questions this morning so that people can understand what they need to do.”

Tory MP for Hazel Grove William Wragg said: “‘Greater Manchester’ is not one homogeneous area.

“We must always err on the side of caution with COVID, but to treat all 10 boroughs the same is not the right approach.”

The new rules came into effect from Midnight last night and mean you can no longer meet with people outside of your household indoors. 

Mr Hancock said: “The biggest risk in terms of the spread if this virus across this area is household transmission when people are going to see each other in each other’s homes when they’re not in a household together. And also visiting friends and relatives.

“Actually we’re not seeing as much transmission in terms of people in their place of work, going to retail or other areas.”

Matt Hancock has also denied that the action taken was being aimed at curtailing Eid celebrations. 

Asked on BBC’s Today programme whether the measures were to stop Eid celebrations Hancock said:  “No, my heart goes out to the Muslim communities in these areas because I know how important the Eid celebrations are.

“I’m very grateful to the local Muslim leaders, the imams in fact, across the country who’ve been working so hard to find a way to have COVID-secure celebrations.

“For instance celebrating Eid in parks where there’s more space available and of course outdoors is safer than indoors.”

Find out more about the new rules here

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Primark confirm Trafford Centre store will open for 24 hours after lockdown

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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
  • Bluewater
  • Lakeside
  • Birmingham Fort
  • Meadowhall
  • Stratford
  • White City
  • Charlton
  • 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.”

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Why London is Tier 2 but Manchester is back in Tier 3

‘We’ve not seen the demand rises’

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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.”

 

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Full list of which tier every region in England will be in from Wednesday

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The new tiered system is coming into force on Wednesday and promises to be ‘stronger’ than the last.

Each local authority across England has now been placed into either tier 1,2 or 3. The new tier system will come into force from December 2nd, when the four-week national lockdown ends.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced on November 26th which areas would be placed in which tier as part of the government’s Covid Winter Plan.

There are stricter measures in place for areas put into tiers 2 and 3. Most notably, in Tier 3 where hospitality will remain completely closed except for delivery and takeaway. 

For those in Tier 2, alcohol can only be served alongside a ‘substantial’ meal which includes either a full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal. Those hospitality venues that cannot provide this must close. 

The only areas to be placed into Tier 1 (medium alert) include Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight.

In Tier 2 (high alert):

  • North West:
    • Cumbria
    • Liverpool City Region
    • Warrington and Cheshire
  • Yorkshire:
    • York
    • North Yorkshire

      West Midlands:

    • Worcestershire
    • Herefordshire
    • Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
  • East Midlands
    • Rutland
    • Northamptonshire
  • East of England:
    • Suffolk
    • Hertfordshire
    • Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
    • Norfolk
    • Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
    • Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
  • London:
    • all 32 boroughs plus the City of London
  • South East:
    • East Sussex
    • West Sussex
    • Brighton and Hove
    • Surrey
    • Reading
    • Wokingham
    • Bracknell Forest
    • Windsor and Maidenhead
    • West Berkshire
    • Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
    • Buckinghamshire
    • Oxfordshire
  • South West:
    • South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
    • Bath and North East Somerset
    • Dorset
    • Bournemouth
    • Christchurch
    • Poole
    • Gloucestershire
    • Wiltshire and Swindon
    • Devon

Tier 3 (Very High Alert):

  • North East:
    • Hartlepool
    • Middlesbrough
    • Stockton-on-Tees
    • Redcar and Cleveland
    • Darlington
    • Sunderland
    • South Tyneside
    • Gateshead
    • Newcastle upon Tyne
    • North Tyneside
    • County Durham
    • Northumberland
  • North West:
    • Greater Manchester
    • Lancashire
    • Blackpool
    • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Yorkshire and The Humber:
    • The Humber
    • West Yorkshire
    • South Yorkshire
  • West Midlands:
    • Birmingham and Black Country
    • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
    • Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull
  • East Midlands: 
    • Derby and Derbyshire
    • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
    • Leicester and Leicestershire
    • Lincolnshire
  • South East:
    • Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)
    • Kent and Medway
  • South West:
    • Bristol
    • South Gloucestershire
    • North Somerset

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