New measures in response to the acceleration of coronavirus announced by Health Secretary

Date published: 21 September 2020

A range of new measures in response to the recent acceleration of coronavirus have been announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock today (Monday 21 September).

New measures will come into force, including additional restrictions in other parts of the country, prioritised testing and lifting restrictions on childcare arrangements.

To avoid confusion, we will not detail the new restrictions being brought in elsewhere but focus only on the announcements today that will have an effect on residents in the borough of Rochdale.

As it stands, the restrictions in Rochdale (which includes Heywood, Littleborough and Middleton) remain as follows:

  • Do not meet people you do not live with inside a private home or garden, except where you have formed a support bubble (or for other limited exemptions to be specified in law).
  • Do not visit someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside of the affected areas.
  • Do not socialise with people you do not live with in other indoor public venues - such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship or and entertainment venues.

The number of cases in Rochdale borough for the week ending 17 September stands at 112 per 100,000 people, up from 35.5 a month earlier on 17 August.

Today a new exemption has been announced to the restrictions for caring purposes.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Hancock said: “I have heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements.

“For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline - without which, they couldn’t do their jobs.

“I am able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14, or vulnerable adults, where that is necessary for caring purposes.

“This covers both formal and informal arrangements.

“It does not allow for playdates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship, that is vital for somebody to get to work, is allowed.”

The Health Secretary also confirmed that the Government will introduce a new £500 Isolation Support Payment for people on low incomes who can’t work because they’ve tested positive or are asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. This will start from Monday 28 September.

He said: "People who have tested positive, and their close contacts, must self-isolate.

"This is the primary way that we, together, break the chains of transmission.

"Now, I know that self-isolation can be tough for many people, especially if you are not in a position to work from home. And I don’t want anyone having to have to worry about their finances while they are doing the right thing."

Additionally, coronavirus tests will now be prioritised; firstly for hospital patients, second for care homes, third for NHS staff (including GPs and pharmacists), fourth for targeted testing to manage and monitor outbreaks, fifth for teachers with Covid-19 symptoms, and then the general public with symptoms, whilst prioritising those in areas where there are more infections.

The government announced last week that two new Lighthouse Labs will be set up in Newcastle, and Bracknell, increasing testing capacity further.

The measures come as the World Health Organization has confirmed that the number of new cases in Europe is now higher than during the peak in March.

Mr Hancock said: “Here, the latest ONS figures indicate 6,000 new infections a day, almost double the previous week.

“We know that the epidemic is currently doubling around every seven days and that if we continue on this trajectory, we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October.

“So there can be no doubt that this virus is accelerating. And we must all play our part in stopping the spread.”

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