Coronavirus restrictions expanded in West Yorkshire as Health Secretary says cases continue to 'rise fast'

Coronavirus restrictions in West Yorkshire have been expanded again just over two weeks after some wards were lifted out of a ban on socialising.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 12:43 pm
Updated Friday, 18th September 2020, 1:17 pm
A social distancing sign in Leeds city centre, West Yorkshire. Photo: PA

All wards in Bradford, Calderdale, and Kirklees will be subject to the ban from Tuesday, after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said cases had risen and local leaders had asked for stricter measures.

But it comes after local MPs lobbied for wards with lower or no cases to be taken out of the measures.

They succeeded and areas outside of Dewsbury and Batley, Halifax, and Bradford and Keighley towns were freed.

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But now, restrictions banning socialising in private homes and gardens will be reimposed across the whole of the Bradford, Kirklees, and Calderdale districts.

The announcement came as Selby and Scarborough were placed on the list of areas of concern as infection rates rose and the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum said it was going into “full emergency mode” to react.

There had been reports in national newspapers that Leeds, which has also seen high case numbers, would be put under restrictions but it appeared to escape those for another week.

Mr Hancock said: “We are seeing cases of coronavirus rise fast in Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton. Local leaders in these areas have asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.

“I know these restrictions will make every-day life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission.

“I urge local people to isolate and get a test if you have symptoms, follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace, and always remember ‘hands, face, space’. By sticking to these steps, we will get through this together.”

It comes after Mr Hancock said a second national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus has not been ruled out but the “great hope” is that people will heed current advice to help manage a “very serious” situation.

He said a national lockdown was the “last line of defence” as he responded to reports that ministers are considering further national measures, even for just a two-week period, such as imposing a curfew on bars and restaurants.

The Government is still under fire over the NHS Test and Trace system, which has seen up to four times the number of people trying to book a test as the number of tests available.

Experts have said that, without effective testing and tracing, it will be much harder to control the spread of the virus and pinpoint larger outbreaks.

NYLRF chair and North Yorkshire County Council chief executive Richard Flinton, said: “We are doing everything it is possible for us to do to keep the county’s residents, communities and businesses out of more serious lockdown measures and we are asking everyone to help so we can protect our freedoms.

“Despite our efforts we have two areas now designated of concern due to the continued and growing infection rates there. I do not believe for one minute anyone wants the sort of restrictions we are seeing in other areas of the country, but only the personal choices everyone makes, every day, can turn the tide.”

He warned if there is not a “mammoth effort” there will be “serious concerns that will cost us all dearly”.

Beckie Hart, Yorkshire and Humber Director at the DBI added: “Businesses in Yorkshire and Humber know public health must come first and have been doing all they can to keep staff and customers safe, whether it’s pubs, shops, factories or offices.

“This news will come as a bitter disappointment for many businesses across Yorkshire and Humber, but the Government cannot stand by as infection rates rise in the region.

“Taking action now can help to maintain confidence and avoid further restrictions on businesses and households in the months ahead.

“With the number of new local restrictions on the rise, the Government will need to take an urgent look at the business support packages for the autumn, including a successor to the furlough scheme.”