With the introduction of “social bubbles” and nonessential shops, pubs, and restaurants reopening, the UK is beginning a journey into a new normal. But some places might not be transforming quite so quickly. The city of Leicester, and some surrounding boroughs, were the first targeted areas to be subject to localised rules, and now millions of people in parts of northern England are facing new restrictions which ban separate households from meeting each other. So what is a local lockdown and what will it look like for areas that are subject to one?
What Is A Local Lockdown?
Local lockdown happens when a specific area starts getting increased cases of coronavirus and may have to adhere to separate rules or have extra support put in place to help stop the spread. It could mean the extension or reintroduction of certain lockdown measures, curbs on travel in and out of the area, and heightened testing and contact tracing within a specified geographical location.
Will It Actually Happen And How Will It Work If It Does?
Throughout the pandemic and subsequent easing of lockdown restrictions, the government has said that it will not hesitate to reintroduce regulations and local lockdowns to keep the population safe. One such targeted lockdown was in Leicester, where restrictions including the closure of non-essential shops and schools for most pupils were reintroduced at the end of June following a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region.
On Monday June 29, the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby said he received a report recommending the current lockdown rules stay in place in his area for a further two weeks. This meant that from Saturday, July 4 when some restrictions were lifted elsewhere in the UK, Leicester effectively remained in lockdown. The city council reported 944 positive tests in the two weeks up to 23 June, about one in 16 of the total UK cases during the same period.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, June 28 home secretary Patel said of the possibility of extending lockdown in Leicester: "With local flare-ups, it is right we have a local solution."
As it stands, mobile testing sites and home testing kits have already been sent to Leicester. The Department of Health told the BBC that four mobile testing sites had been set up in the area.
Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and museums will be allowed to reopen in the city from August 3, as well as religious ceremonies will be able to take place, as some of the stricter measures are lifted. However, leisure centres, gyms and pools must remain closed. The borough of Oadby and Wigston, on the outskirts of Leicester, will have lockdown restrictions lifted completely from August 3, and will join the rest of the country's regulations.
As of July 31, millions in parts of northern England will face a reintroduction of lockdown rules, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on July 30. People living in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire are facing a ban on separate households from meeting each other at home.
The health secretary told the BBC that the government had taken “targeted” action due to contact tracing data showing an increase in transmission from “households visiting each other, and people visiting relatives and friends”.
The new lockdown rules, which came into force at midnight on Thursday July 30, mean people from different households will no longer be allowed to meet in homes or private gardens. The new restrictions also prevent two different households from mixing in pubs and restaurants, meaning people in those areas can only go to pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues with other members of their household.
The PM said the introduction of new restrictions in northern England was not a "return to lockdown," adding that there are "trade-offs" to be made, and that getting children back to school at the start of next term "should be a national priority".
Track and trace data is being employed to provide targeted responses from the government, and will continue to be the case as restrictions are lifted in order to prevent a country-wide second wave.
Other countries have used local lockdowns in their attempts to control the spread of coronavirus. Recently, the county of Anxin — located in Hebei province near Beijing, China — experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases. Per the BBC, officials said Anxin would be "fully enclosed and controlled" with only essential workers going out.
Which Lockdown Restrictions Have Been Lifted In England So Far?
From Saturday, July 4 a one-metre plus rule was put in place, replacing the former two-meter social distancing rule. In England, two households up to a maximum of 30 people can meet indoors and overnight stays are allowed. Pubs and restaurants have reopened, as long as they are able to operate in a "COVID-secure" way. Essential and non-essential shops are already open with social distancing and improved hygiene measures in practice. The roughly 2.2 million people who have been self-isolating in England during the pandemic will no longer need to shield from August 1.
What Lockdown Restrictions Will Be Lifted In England Next?
Plans announced on July 17 by the Prime Minister that set out plans to further ease lockdown rules from August 1 have now been postponed for at least a fortnight. This includes a delay in reopening close-contact services including any treatments on the face, such as eyebrow threading.
Some venues that had been due to open on August 1, will now not be able to do so until at least 15 August, the PM announced on July 31. These include bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos, as well as changes to wedding celebrations.
However, those who test positive for coronavirus or show symptoms must still self-isolate for 10 days.