Local lockdown boundaries are 'guided by the data', Downing Street insists

Downing Street has insisted that all decisions to place restrictions on specific areas due to coronavirus spikes are “informed by the locally available data” after Tory MPs in West Yorkshire pushed for a more granular approach to the boundaries in which the rules apply.

Five West Yorkshire Conservative MPs last week said they were disappointed when restrictions banning people visiting friends and family due to higher levels of the virus were left unchanged.

The MPs had been lobbying Health Secretary Matt Hancock to work on a postcode-by-postcode basis instead of restrictions covering whole local authority areas, and they wanted the Government to allow areas in their constituencies with lower cases to be freed from the rules.

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But after a review on Thursday, it was announced no changes would be made.

A Covid-19 testing centre at Mixenden Activity Centre in Calderdale, one of the areas where new measures have been implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Stricter rules have been introduced for people in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire, and West Yorkshire, banning members of different households from meeting each other indoors. Photo: PA

Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “The decision to extend the local lockdown in the Shipley constituency for a further week is completely unjustified and without any evidence base, as I have made clear in a very robust conversation with both Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, and also the Prime Minister.”

While Jason McCartney, Conservative MP for Colne Valley, said he was “disappointed Colne and Holme valleys and Lindley, with virtually no new cases, are still subject to restrictions for the next seven days but I’m really hopeful that if we still have no new cases we’ll get positive news next week.”

Mark Eastwood, MP for Dewsbury, added he was also disappointed. He said: "The quickest way to exit restrictions is for everyone to continue abiding by guidelines. I will continue to make the case for action to be more targeted and localised."

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said today the decisions were taken based on the data.

He said: “The decisions will be informed by the locally available data, ensuring that we take the right steps to slow the spread of the virus in a particular town, or city, or a region. We will be guided by the data that's available from test and trace, public health teams on the ground,and also, by the advice of the chief medical officer and others.”

Asked whose responsibility it was to define the boundaries, the PM’s spokesman said it was “done in consultation”.

And he pointed to the shutting down of specific businesses such as pubs, or individual GP surgeries, where outbreaks had been found as evidence smaller areas could be closed down if necessary.

But he added: “[The boundaries] have been determined in discussions with local authorities. So, in the North West, for instance, there were conversations which took place between the Department of Health and local authorities.

“Obviously only central government can introduce the regulations but conversations have been taking place between Government and local authorities.”

Leader of Labour-run Bradford Council Susan Hinchcliffe previously said: “It is a fact that Bradford Council has no powers to close any sector or any part of the district down.

“These are Government powers that they exercise, decisions which they take without us in the room. Given our high infection rates, it would have been extraordinary for Government not to put restrictions on Bradford district but only to put restrictions on our neighbouring authorities, who have much lower infection rates.”

The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed on Friday evening that current rules on gatherings in parts Bradford, Kirklees, and Calderdale - as well as in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire - would not be lifted and that Preston would become the latest place to be included in a ban on households gathering in homes and gardens.

Nine Tory MPs in Greater Manchester also sent a letter to Mr Hancock calling for restrictions to be implemented on a more narrow basis.

The restrictions on gatherings will be reviewed again this week, with any changes to be announced by Friday, August 14.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The past week has been difficult for many people in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and east Lancashire, and I thank everyone in these areas for their patience and willingness to follow the rules.

“Yesterday I chaired a meeting of the Local Action Gold Committee, and unfortunately the data does not yet show a decrease in the transmission of this terrible virus.

“It means we must keep the current restrictions in place to allow more time for the impact of this ban on indoor gatherings to be felt, and make sure local residents and their loved ones are protected.

“At the request of the local area, we are also extending these restrictions to Preston.

“We are constantly examining the data on the prevalence of the virus in these areas, and we will review the measures again next week.

“As we continue to see rising rates of the virus across Europe, it is vital we take every precaution to protect our country.

“I urge everyone in these areas to follow the rules, get yourself a free test as soon as you get any symptoms, and isolate if NHS Test and Trace tells you to.”