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More targeted action in local areas to curb the spread of coronavirus Published Date: 21/08/2020

The Health and Social Care secretary, local leaders, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and the Chief Medical Officer for England have agreed changes to the local restrictions in some parts of England.

The measures being announced today will deliver a more targeted intervention in parts of Northern England, with further intervention in:

  • Oldham
  • Blackburn
  • parts of Pendle

Restrictions will be lifted in:

  • Wigan
  • Rossendale
  • Darwen

The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has reiterated his support to each affected area and is aware of the personal sacrifices that many have made to help reduce rising infection rates, with huge efforts apparent across the country demonstrated by major increase in local testing, contact tracing and community engagement.

To ensure further targeting of the intervention, in future, the government is updating its Contain Framework to ensure that each week local authorities in an area of national intervention bring a combined proposal on the geography which should be included that has been developed in conjunction with the local cross-party council leadership and MPs. The JBC will provide the relevant data, including on the minimum local areas which must be included due to the prevalence of the virus.

Local leadership will then be expected to seek consensus between councils and local MPs and recommend the appropriate geography which fits local travel patterns, work and social behaviours for restrictions to be active in. Areas within the local authority where COVID-19 is less prevalent are expected to be exempt from any restrictions.

The JBC Gold meeting, chaired by the Secretary of State with the Chief Medical Officer, will then make the final decision based on the local recommendation, or recommendations if consensus cannot be reached.

In the northern area of intervention, we will expect councils to engage with MPs immediately and seek a consensus recommendation to the JBC Silver meeting chaired by the CMO on Wednesday, for a decision at the JBC Gold meeting on Thursday.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“To prevent a second peak and keep COVID-19 under control, we need robust, targeted intervention where we see a spike in cases. The only way we can keep on top of this deadly virus is through decisive action led by the people who know their areas best, wherever possible through consensus with a local area.

“Working with local leaders we agreed further action Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn. It is vital that everyone in these areas follow the advice of their councils, and abide by their local rules carefully.

“Our approach is to make the action we take as targeted as possible, with the maximum possible local consensus. To do that we are introducing a new process to increase engagement between local leaders, both councils and MPs, with the aim of taking as targeted action as possible.

“This will allow local councils to focus resources onto the wards which need more targeted intervention in order to drive infection rates down, and gives local people a stronger voice at the table.

“Remember, if you get any symptoms you can get a free test, and you must isolate if NHS Test and Trace tells you to.”

The following changes have been agreed with local leaders.

Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn

Additional guidance will be introduced in Oldham, Blackburn and parts of Pendle to help curb a rising tide of COVID-19 cases, following careful consideration of rates across England yesterday.

Despite dedicated local efforts, evidence of rising rates in areas remain, and in close collaboration with the local areas, it has been decided that from midnight on Saturday, local residents in these 3 areas should not socialise with anyone from outside their household.

It does not prevent people from shopping, going to work or attending childcare settings, including schools, which open from 1 September. But it does mean any social activities indoors and outdoors can only be shared with people that you live with and in your immediate household

Residents will be advised to avoid using public transport except for essential travel, and the numbers of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships and funerals should be limited to household members and close family and no more than 20 people.

Local restaurants will also be encouraged to halt walk-ins, and only seat people who make reservations in advance, up to a maximum of 6 people per table.

The new rules – which will not apply in the Darwen area of the Blackburn with Darwen upper tier local authority area, parts of Pendle, in Rossendale, or in Wigan – are in addition to the existing ban on indoor gatherings of more than 2 households in place across parts of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

Yesterday, the Health and Social Care Secretary and local leaders heard how cases in Oldham reached 103.1 per 100,000 people during the week ending 13 August, with Blackburn and Pendle reaching 95.3 and 75.5 cases respectively.

The sharp rise in cases is in part due to a major increase in testing led by local councils, but as the percentage of people testing positive is also increasing, local data suggests the increase continues to be due to social mixing between younger age groups of 20- to 39-year-olds.


Cases of COVID-19 are rising quickly in Birmingham, with 30.2 cases per 100,000 and the percentage of people testing positive up to 4.3%. Over half of cases in the last week have been within the 18 to 34 age demographic.

Local leaders and the government have therefore agreed initially to make Birmingham an ‘area of enhanced support’, meaning the area will benefit from additional testing, locally led contact tracing and targeted community engagement.

Further discussions with local leaders are taking place to understand what additional measures should be taken to help manage the outbreak. The Secretary of State will hold a meeting with local council leaders and the Mayor of the West Midlands today to discuss urgent next steps.


Northampton has seen a marked increase in cases, with their local incidence rate hitting 125.1 per 100,000 people during the week ending 13 August. Local testing data and analysis from the JBC shows this spike is almost solely down to an outbreak linked to the workforce at the Greencore Factory where nearly 300 workers have tested positive.

The factory will close voluntarily from today, and employees and their direct households will be required to isolate at home for 2 weeks. The Health and Social Care Secretary will introduce regulations to ensure that this self-isolation period is legally enforced. Anyone who leaves isolation prior to the 2-week period ending, without reasonable excuse, will be subject to fines.

Lancashire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Leicester

The rules on social gatherings introduced 3 weeks ago will be lifted in Wigan, Rossendale and some areas of Blackburn with Darwen, and these areas will align with the rest of England from Wednesday 26 August.

The restrictions will continue unchanged in other parts of West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and Leicester and will be reviewed again next week.

Background information

PHE’s weekly surveillance report includes changes to the watch list of local authority areas with higher-than-average incidences of COVID-19.

The changes are:

  • Northampton added as an ‘area of intervention’
  • Birmingham added as ‘area of enhanced support’
  • Slough added as an ‘area of concern’
  • Bedford is being removed following a drop in cases
  • Wigan and Rossendale are being removed from the list following a drop in cases
  • 9 wards in Blackburn and Darwen are also being removed