As England wakes up to the news that more local areas are going back under stricter lockdown rules, people are asking for further clarification on what’s going on.
Today (31 July) is going to be the hottest day of the year so far. With restaurants, bars and pubs now back in swing, they will no doubt be busy over the sunny weekend, as people in England try to resume summer in this new normal.
But last night it was announced that parts of northern England are to go back under stricter lockdown restrictions with immediate effect, following spikes in local coronavirus cases – a stark reminder that we are still very much in a pandemic.
Separate households have been banned from meeting each other indoors in Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees. The same restrictions will also still apply in Leicester, where a local lockdown has been in place over the last month.
The measures mean different households will not be allowed to meet in homes or private gardens. However, individual households will still be able to go to pubs and restaurants but not mix with another household.
Health secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement on Twitter in a thread of messages at 9:16pm, saying the decision was “largely due” to people not observing social distancing.
He wrote: “The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing. So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas.
“We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of Covid across Europe and are determined to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe.”
Naturally, people have a lot of questions about the announcement.
Why was the lockdown tightening announcement made on Twitter?
Hancock is being criticised for making the announcement late at night on Twitter. With the new rules coming into effect at midnight, just three hours after this tweet, could it really be expected for the message to be fully communicated to local residents in time?
“I have to say a few tweets from a minister late at night is not the way to announce something as significant as this,” shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said.
Labour MP Jess Phillips also shared a tweet by Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crerar, which read: “It does seem quite remarkable, even by this government’s chaotic messaging standards, that the latest changes have been announced via Twitter with just a few hours’ notice – and leaving many questions unanswered.”
Why ban house visits but not close pubs and restaurants?
People are asking how the government knows the spikes are down to households mixing. Can this really all be blamed on people’s social distancing “disobedience” when lockdown restrictions have been eased so much?
“Can someone wise explain to me how it’s possible to know that the spread is due to people’s ‘disobedience’, rather than the government’s (some would say) hasty relaxation measures?,” asked former NHS doctor and This Is Going To Hurt author Adam Kay.
“The government can have this one for free: Local lockdowns will not work unless you shut the pubs,” added political journalist Hannah Al-Othman.
Will there be a coronavirus press conference?
The daily government briefings on coronavirus ended last month. However, with so many questions to ask about a significant announcement that affects so many people, will Boris Johnson address the nation for clarity?
“When the government ended the daily press conferences, they said they would hold them for ‘significant announcements’, including local lockdowns. It’s hard to imagine what could be more significant than this,” said leader of the opposition Keir Starmer.
“The daily press briefings weren’t perfect but I’ve a feeling we might see one tomorrow…” added Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall.
How will this affect the Muslim community during Eid?
Muslim communities are preparing to celebrate Eid this weekend. Although places of worship will remain open, subject to social distancing rules, how will the lockdown tightening impact celebrations?
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi discussed why more clarity is needed on this on Good Morning Britain.
“Clarity, consistency and timely communication is essential to maintain lockdown support and buy in. The overnight announcement on the eve of Eid could have been handled better,” Warsi has since tweeted.
MP for Manchester Gorton, Afzal Khan, has also shared a Twitter thread, confirming that communal Eid prayers will go ahead as planned.
“I know this evening’s annoucement will be causing anxiety for many of my constituents,” wrote Khan.
“It is my understanding that mosques already Covid-19 secure are not affected by the changes in restrictions in Greater Manchester, so communal #EidAlAdha prayers will go ahead as planned.
“However, you must have no visitors in your own home who are not part of your own bubble. People can still meet other households as long as it is outside. I urge you to follow the restrictions - they are there to keep us all safe and secure. Eid mubarak.”