Toughest coronavirus restrictions to be introduced in Lancashire

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Lancashire has become the second area of England to be placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.

From Saturday, people in the north west county will be banned from socialising with anybody they do not live with in any indoor setting or private garden, as well as in most outdoor hospitality venues.

All pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals, and casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops, soft play areas and adult gaming centres will be forced to shut. Car boot sales will also be banned.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “An unrelenting rise in cases in Lancashire means we must act now, and we have worked intensively with local leaders to agree on additional restrictions.

“Without them, we risk the health of your loved ones, your most vulnerable, and your local NHS services. Now is the time to play your part, and we will make sure you are supported.”

Lancashire joins the Liverpool City Region as the only two areas of England facing Tier 3 restrictions, the most severe.

Some local leaders in the county were “reluctant” to agree to further restrictions, but sources said local councils had agreed an extra £30 million to help with the local test, trace and isolate and other measures.

A furious political row between local politicians and Westminster has so far prevented Greater Manchester being moved into the “very high” risk category.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused the city’s mayor Andy Burnham of trying to “hold the Government over a barrel” by resisting tougher restrictions and urged him to “do the right thing by the people of Manchester”.

Mr Burnham has said that what is proposed goes far beyond just closing pubs and bars and is not guaranteed to bring the outbreak under control.

MPs and other council chiefs have also criticised the plan.

But Mr Raab insisted tougher restrictions were needed to control the rise in coronavirus cases.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Covid-19 restrictions in England (PA Graphics)

“The cases there are 470 per 100,000, so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area, and if we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected… we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown.”

Mr Burnham, responding on Twitter, said: “It’s not about what we want for ourselves, Dominic Raab.

“It’s about what we want for low-paid and self-employed people everywhere: fairness.”

In a joint statement, Mr Burnham, North Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram called for an 80% furlough scheme for all people affected by regional lockdowns.

They said: “Paying two-thirds of salaries will not be enough to protect the jobs of thousands – it should at least match the 80% that was available under furlough, with the minimum wage as the minimum support.

“The Universal Credit top-up is not the answer.

“It doesn’t help everybody and takes weeks to come through.

“It will not prevent severe hardship for thousands of low-paid workers before Christmas.

“But we won’t forget the self-employed and freelancers and other business who will be affected by these lockdowns, they also need support and we stand firm for those too.

“This is a fight for what is right.”

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