Eid plans ruined but laws enforcing lockdown restrictions in northern areas are yet to be implemented

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Laws underpinning new lockdown restrictions for Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire are yet to be implemented. The government has admitted that four days after the rules were introduced, they still aren’t legally enforceable.

Ministers said the rules were effective from midnight on Friday 31 July. They placed bans on people from different households meeting following a reported spike in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the affected areas.

When the changes were announced, officials said new regulations were needed to make them legally enforceable.

Against the law, but the laws haven’t been implemented

Guidance published on 31 July stated that it would be against the law for people from different households to meet in a private home or garden, unless they are part of a support bubble. It also warned of £100 fines for those who flout the rules. Officials said the laws were due to be signed off and published later that night.

But on Monday 3 August, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed it was yet to implement laws bringing the rules into force. It said it was trying to make the changes legally enforceable as soon as possible but insisted the rules still applied from 31 July.

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When asked by the PA news agency why there was a delay, and on what legal basis the rules were currently being enforced, the department refused to comment.

“Disorientating”

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced the decision in a series of tweets on Thursdsy 30 July. It came after there had reportedly been an increasing rate of transmission in parts of Northern England.

The announcement was made late on the eve of the Muslim celebration of Eid al Adha. Muslims celebrating Eid in the affected areas were urged not to host or visit friends and family in each other’s homes or gardens. They were also told not to meet friends and family in other venues – including restaurants or cafes.

The government faced criticism for unveiling the new restrictions late at night and just hours before they came into force. Some said this prompted confusion in the communities affected. Tory MP Craig Whittaker was also criticised for saying on 31 July that “BAME communities” aren’t taking the guidance seriously.

While supportive of the measures, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham told the BBC on 31 July that he had concerns about the way they were announced. He said the lack of immediate detail was “disorientating” for the public.

No guidance issued by police leaders

Police leaders have been issuing guidance to forces on how to enforce restrictions each time a new coronavirus law has been introduced during the pandemic. This is so officers know the powers available and in what circumstances they can impose fines.

But on this occasion, so far this has been unable to happen due to the delay in publishing the laws, it is understood. The new restrictions apply to Greater Manchester, including the City of Manchester, Trafford, Stockport, Oldham, Bury, Wigan, Bolton, Tameside, Rochdale and Salford.

They also apply to Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale in Lancashire, and Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees in West Yorkshire. Similar restrictions will also apply to Leicester, which saw the first so-called “local lockdown” imposed on 29 June.

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