LONDON: The British government re-imposed local COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing measures on Wednesday on parts of the Greater Manchester, just as they were being lifted.
In the northern parts of England, what analysts suggest to be the latest in a series of abrupt reversals, the government decided that the restrictions will remain in place.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said social distancing measures would remain in place in the boroughs of Bolton and Trafford. However, it was contrary to his announcement on Aug. 28 that they would be lifted on Sept. 2.
The health secretary said in his latest statement that following a significant change in the level of infection rates over the last few days, a decision has been taken that “Bolton and Trafford will now remain under existing restrictions”.
The restrictions mean, among other things, that residents cannot meet people from outside a narrowly defined social bubble in homes, either indoors or in gardens. This has been the case in Greater Manchester since July 30.
Apparently for the government the planned lifting of the restrictions in said areas while they remained in place elsewhere in the densely populated metropolitan, had proved controversial.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, of the opposition Labour Party, said earlier on Wednesday that it left residents in “an impossible situation”. He urged them to keep following the restrictions “regardless of the change”.
The government’s original decision on Aug. 28 to lift the restrictions in Trafford had been taken against the wishes of the elected local authority.
After Hancock’s sudden U-turn on Wednesday, the Labour leader of Trafford Council Andrew Western said on Twitter: “We should never have been put in this mess in the first place; this has massively damaged public confidence in measures.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been criticised for what many view as its confusing response to the coronavirus outbreak.
In particular, the government has repeatedly taken measures it had previously vowed not to. A recent example was the scrapping of grades assigned to young people leaving schools without having been able to take exams, after they caused a public outcry.