Millions of people in northern England can no longer meet with members outside of their household in their homes and gardens, in the latest coronavirus crackdown.
The rules affect 4.5 million people across Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire, where the government said there had been a growing number of Covid-19 cases.
People from different households are also banned from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, though businesses will remain open for individuals or members of the same household to use.
Groups of people from different households will still be able to meet in outdoor public spaces, so long as social distancing measures are maintained.
The government said it will give police forces and councils powers to enforce the new rules – adding that some exemptions will be put in place, including for the vulnerable.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the government’s delivery of the announcement, which was made on Twitter just hours before the rules came into force at midnight.
Speaking with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, he said: “The formal meeting was in the afternoon, and then we took the decision and made it public as quickly as possible.
“I think people appreciate that sometimes we need to move fast in response to this virus.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had tweeted last night: “No one would argue with putting in place local action to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. But announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.”
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