The only UK area to come out of local lockdown is back on the government’s coronavirus watchlist

·3-min read
Luton was kept in lockdown in July when the rest of the nation had rules lifted, a month later it was brought back in line with the rest of the UK.
Luton was kept in lockdown in July when the rest of the nation had rules lifted, a month later it was brought back in line with the rest of the UK.

Luton, the only UK area to have been lifted out of a local lockdown, has been put back on the government’s coronavirus watchlist after a spike in cases.

The number of new cases per 100,000 people has increased in Luton to 57.3, up from 43.2 a week ago.

In July when the nation was being lifted out of the nationwide lockdown, Luton was one of the few areas where the relaxation of rules was stalled.

After a month Luton was brought back in line with the rest of the country and had its rules relaxed, while places like Leicester and Blackburn with Darwin were left under enhanced measures.

Earlier this week Boris Johnson said the reason lockdown was lifted in Luton was because the local community obeyed the rules.

Huge parts of the UK have since been placed under local lockdowns with more being added every week - but few show any signs of coming out anytime soon.

Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesborough will be the latest areas to be subject to enhanced restrictions after an announcement by Matt Hancock on Thursday.

Read more: New map shows the areas of England and Wales under local lockdown

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked the prime minister at PMQs on Wednesday why Luton was the only area to ever be taken out of local lockdown.

Sir Keir said: “In recent months, 48 areas in England have gone into local restrictions, but only one has ever come out and stayed out – that is Luton.

“Why does the Prime Minister think that is?”

Johnson replied: “The reason, I think, for the success of Luton is that the local people pulled together to suppress the virus, to follow the guidance, and that is the way forward for the entire country.

“That is what we did before in March and April, and I have no doubt that that is what we’re going to do again.”

Other changes to the official coronavirus watchlist saw Barrow-in-Furness, Cheshire West and Chester and Cheshire East added as areas of concern.

Watch: Sir Kier challenges Johnson over local lockdowns at PMQs

In West Yorkshire, Wakefield is now an area of concern, while in South Yorkshire Sheffield has been escalated to an area of enhanced support and Rotherham is now an area of concern.

Hertsmere has been removed from the watchlist.

In the East Midlands Blaby has moved down a level to become an area of concern.

In the South East, Spelthorne has been removed from the watchlist.

Areas of concern are the focus of targeted actions to reduce the prevalence of coronavirus, for example receiving additional testing in care homes and increased community engagement with high-risk groups.

Read more: COVID cases at Sheffield university double overnight as campus infection rates soar

Areas for enhanced support are those at a medium-high risk of intervention where there is a more detailed plan, agreed with the national authorities.

If an area of enhanced support fails to keep its cases under control then it is likely to put under local lockdown.

All local lockdowns in England and Wales have banned people from mixing in private households, but some have come with additional measures.

There have been some accusations that the current system of local lockdowns is becoming too complex.

Johnson was forced to apologise earlier this week when he couldn’t explain the new rules for the north-east of England.

A recent survey found 64% of Britons thought the current guidelines were “unclear.”

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