Lumped into lockdown: How 38MILLION people in low and no Covid areas are being forced under stricter coronavirus rules because of small pockets of the country with rising infection rates
- UK’s outbreak is focused in Greater Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester which are facing local lockdowns
- Some 75% of local areas have a case rate below 20 per 100,000 – the threshold for quarantine measures
- But all will be subject to draconian restrictions including the ‘Rule of Six’ that could harm the economy
More than half the people in the UK are being forced into stricter coronavirus rules next week despite living in unaffected areas, because some parts of the country can’t keep the virus under control.
Around 38million residents will be lumped into lockdown as the nation is told to ‘limit social contact’ and face fines or police action if they meet in groups of more than six people, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday.
Data shows that the UK’s coronavirus outbreak is mostly being driven by cases in hotspots including Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Birmingham and Leicester, with many area are in local lockdown measures or receiving extra Government support.
But 75 per cent of local areas have a case rate below 20 per 100,000 – the level at which quarantine measures are considered for foreign countries – yet will still be subject to the draconian new measures.
Rural areas in the South West, for example, have escaped the worst of the virus’s impact for most of the outbreak but are still being subjected to the tough rules faced by the rest of the country.
Lesser-affected areas include places such as Northumberland and Bishop Auckland in the North, to Weymouth, Ashford and Winchester in the south.
All will be required to ensure people meet in groups no larger than six indoors and outdoors, and subject to fines ranging from £100 to £3,200 if they fail to comply, despite their low numbers of coronavirus cases.
One Conservative MP told MailOnline it was unfair to apply the rules with such a ‘broad brush’, putting together people in at-risk inner city areas with those living in the spaced-out countryside.
A Conservative former Minister criticised the measures as a ‘very broad brush’ and said that something ‘more concentrated’ would have been better.
David Jones MP told MailOnline: ‘I can understand that the Government has to do something, because there is certainly an uptick.
‘But it is not an uptick across the country as a whole. There are some parts of the country such as Devon, Dorset where there is very little virus activity at all.
‘So it does seem to be very broad brush… I would have thought something more concentrated would be better.’
He added that while crowded pubs had been ‘asking for trouble’ it was ‘not something that appears to be uniform across the country’.
‘Something more focused would be appropriate,’ he said.
Dorset has recorded 37 cases in the past week, giving it a rate of just 8.7 per 100,000, according to official data. And Exeter, which is in Devon, has recorded 10 cases in the past week, giving it a rate of 7.7 per 100,000.
Christopher Snowdon, the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said the Government had ‘over-reacted’ to cases spiking above 2,000 by bringing in the ‘Rule of Six’.
‘Figures show that the (coronavirus) problem is still quite highly localised, despite what was said yesterday,’ he told MailOnline.
NEW LOCKDOWN RULES FOR ENGLAND FROM MONDAY
- Max social gatherings SIX PEOPLE
- Applies indoors and outdoors
- Applies in private homes
- Applies in pubs and restaurants
- Does NOT apply to schools or workplaces
- Does NOT apply to weddings, funerals, team sport
- Does NOT apply if household bubbles are bigger than six people
- Police will be encouraged to break up larger groups and issue £100 fines, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200
‘I look at the map where you can check outbreaks and, in my neck of the woods, there are huge stretches of land where there are less than two cases.
‘It suggests to me that local lockdowns or local restrictions are still the best way forward and the broad brush approach is, at best, pre-mature.
‘I think the Government has maybe decided to bring in this “Rule of Six” because it will have a smaller economic impact than closing pubs or schools, but there will be an economic impact. You can’t have more than six people in a group in restaurants, for example.
‘I know the hospitality industry is very concerned. (They) are still trying to balance the economy and risk to some extent, but they got the balance wrong.’
Bolton currently has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in England, with 131.1 per 100,000 after another 377 cases were recorded. This is a sharp rise from the rate of 72.0 recorded seven days ago.
Bradford has the second highest rate, at 78.4 with 423 new cases, and Birmingham the third highest, at 77.1 with 880 new cases.
Other areas of concern include Salford, at 70.7, Sunderland, at 69.1, Manchester, at 64.9, Leeds, at 61.7, and Leicester, at 56.7.
But hundreds of other towns and villages in the UK are recording case rates at less than 20 per 100,000.
Local lockdowns are already in place for Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham, Pendle, Leicester and Greencore in Northampton.
A further tightening of restrictions has been seen in the North of England, and previous lockdown measures for Luton have since been dropped.
No lockdown restrictions are in place in Birmingham, but the city has been put on the watchlist after infections there doubled in the last week. West Midlands mayor Andy Street said even tougher restrictions are ‘looking likely’ for residents after 712 new infections were recorded.
The tougher rules for the city could include households being banned from mixing in private homes or gardens, and people are only allowed to dine out with people they alreaday live with.
The Prime Minister warned at a Downing Street press briefing yesterday that the new England-wide restrictions could be here for months – potentially scuppering families plans over the Christmas break.
And Matt Hancock told Sky News that the rules would be there for the ‘foreseeable future’ – but he sought to pour cold water on suggestions they could still be in place by the festive period, stating ‘three months is a long time in a pandemic’.
The Government has revealed that young people currently have the highest rate of infection – but warned that this could lead to an ‘inexorable rise in older people’ who are more at risk from the virus.
Those aged between 20 to 29 have the highest weekly incidence rate, at 41.6 per 100,000. And considerably behind are 30 to 39-year-olds, with a rate of 25.8, and ten to 19-year-olds, with a rate of 22.7.
The levels among the elderly remain low, at 1.7 per 100,000 for those aged 60 to 69, although these may be pushed up by transmission through the population.
The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is concerned about transmission between the generations, particularly via waiters and bar tenders, reports The Telegraph.
Professor Peter Horby, from the University of Oxford and a member of SAGE, told the publication: ‘What we’re seeing is a return to work in the hospitality industry, people such as waiters and waitresses.
‘It may well be the case that people feel under pressure to return, regardless of whether the infection control measures are any good.’
The committee is undertaking further research to understand their role in transmission.
It comes as documents leaked to the British Medical Journal reveal the Government is planning to spend £100billion on testing, the equivalent of the education budget, in order to get Britain ‘back to life before Covid’.
The plans could see up to 10 million coronavirus tests carried out every day by early next year, with theatres, cinemas and other venues testing everyone when they arrive.
Workplaces, schools, football stadiums, entertainment venues, GP surgeries and pharmacies are all outlined as potential sites where testing could take place.
Digital immunity passports for those who test negative would also be rolled out to allow safe travel, a return to work and other activities.
A leaked memo, sent to Nicola Sturgeon and other Scottish cabinet secretaries, says the proposals are ‘to support economic activity and a return to normal life’.
‘This is described by the Prime Minister as our only hope for avoiding a second national lockdown before a vaccine, something the country cannot afford,’ they say.
The budget for testing also comes close to that of the NHS in England, at £130billion a year, which in itself represents 20 per cent of all public spending.
But critics have already slammed the so-called Operation Moonshot due to the apparent lack of input from scientists and public health experts and what seems to be a refusal to tackle issues with existing testing and tracing programmes.
There are fears that most of the technology involved in the plan doesn’t even exist yet, let along the logistical headache that carrying out 10 million daily tests would bring for officials who have struggled with just a few hundred thousand.
The UK has recorded more than 2,000 coronavirus cases for four days in a row, prompting Ministers to warn the rise is ‘concerning’.
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