New restrictions placed on Leeds "not taken lightly", health secretary says

Credit: PA

The Government has announced that people in Leeds will be banned from meeting with other households from midnight tonight (25 September).

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said the city has been made an "area of intervention", while the leader for public health said the restrictions could last through winter.

The measures introduced have been kept in line with other local restrictions currently already in place in some parts of West Yorkshire, in Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford.

What are the new restrictions?

  • No meeting other households at home or in a garden.

  • In pubs, restaurants and in public spaces it is the advice that households do not mix.

  • Exemptions will apply to support bubbles and childcare.

  • The 'rule of six' and 10pm closures to the hospitality sector will remain the same

Around 780,000 people are expected to be affected by the restrictions.

The health Secretary, Matt Hancock published a statement announcing the news, which said that the decisions to impose tougher measures had not been "taken lightly", and that restrictions will be kept "under review and in place no longer than they are necessary". 

It comes as Leeds Council has announced that transmission of the virus is 'widespread' and 'growing' across the city.

Official weekly coronavirus figures provided by the Government show that the rate of infection in the city over the last seven days (18 - 25 September) has been 98.5 positive cases per 100,00 people.

Leeds City Council said a 'simple way' to determine whether or not individuals will be affected by the expected restrictions is if a household's bin is collected by the Leeds authority.

What are the exemptions?

  • People can still meet with those in their support bubble

  • To provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person

  • Exclusive childcare bubbles for children under 14

  • There are other limited exemptions for work purposes 

Around 780,000 people are expected to be affected by the restrictions, which are expect to last for at least the next 14 days (25 September).

Leeds was named as an 'area of concern' earlier this month and was placed on the 'enhanced support' list on 11 September by the Government.

Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city's virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4%. Credit: PA

The measures will mean that from midnight tonight (25 September):

  • People in Leeds cannot meet or host people you do not live with in private homes or gardens unless they are in your support bubble. A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household.

  • You cannot visit someone else's home or garden even if they live outside of Leeds, unless they are in your support bubble.

  • People can still come inside your home or garden for specific purposes. These include where everyone in the gathering lives together or is in the same support bubble; to attend a birth at the mother’s request; to visit a person who is dying; to fulfil a legal obligation; for work purposes, or for the provision of voluntary or charitable services; for the purposes of education or training; for the purposes of childcare; to provide emergency assistance; to enable one or more persons in the gathering to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm; to facilitate a house move; to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person.

  • Existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children where the children do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents will remain exempt.

  • Friends and family can also still provide informal childcare for children under 14.

Credit: PA

In addition to these restrictions, people in Leeds are also being advised:

  • Not to socialise with people you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble, in any public venue either in Leeds or elsewhere. Examples of public venues include pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions and parks.

  • Not to visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances. Care homes should restrict visits to these circumstances.

  • To follow all relevant transport guidance when making a journey into, within or out of the areas affected, wear a face covering on public transport and try not to share a car with those outside your household or support bubble.

Commuters at Leeds railway station. Credit: PA

The addition of Leeds' population has taken the number of people living under local restrictions to more than 16.2 million people across the UK.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: "What we are trying to do is give a simple message - you shouldn't really mix with other households."

Mr Riordan added: "I think we know from the experience of Leicester, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire that when these restrictions are brought in they do not tend to be lifted after a week or two."

Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city's virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4%.

She said: "The spread of the virus is very dynamic across the city. It's clear to see we have very widespread community transmissions right across the city."

Ms Eaton said there were "high rates in some of our student areas" but said cases were rising in all age groups, not just young adults.

Credit: PA

She said compliance with self-isolation rules was still low in Leeds.

"We want to find ways to support local people to isolate. The expectation is the restrictions will be in place for a longer period of time, potentially right through the winter."

Announcing the measures in a statement, The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said:

"As the Covid-19 incidence rate continues to rise across the country, a suite of local and national actions is required to break the trains of transmission and enable people to maintain a more normal way of life.

"As a result, we are making regulations which take effect from Saturday 26 September and will impose restrictions on inter-household mixing in private dwellings and gardens in Leeds.

"This is in line with measures seen elsewhere in the country, such as Leicester and the West Midlands. People who live in these areas will not be allowed to gather in a private dwelling or garden with any other household unless in a support bubble.

"People from anywhere else will also not be allowed to gather with another household in a private dwelling or garden in these areas."

The Health Secretary acknowledged that the news will be "difficult" for people living in the city and that it will "profoundly affecting their daily lives".