When did this local lockdown start?

On 25 July 2020, a local lockdown was implemented in Blackburn with Darwen and in Luton. Introduced following an increase in rates in transmission of Covid–19 in these areas, it required certain businesses to close and placed restrictions on gatherings. The statutory instrument implementing this local lockdown—the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Luton) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/800)—remained in force until 1 August 2020. It was then repealed and replaced by a new regulation, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/822). This changed the area in which the local lockdown was in force. Restrictions in Luton were lifted following a fall in infection rates in this area. The local lockdown area was extended to include Bradford.

How have the rules changed?

Since 1 August 2020, the following changes have been made to this local lockdown:

Some restrictions remain in place. In Blackburn with Darwen, people are advised not to meet anyone from outside their household outdoors. These are in addition to the new restriction on meeting in a group of more than six, which came into force in England on 14 September. People who are medically vulnerable are also advised to continue shielding in the areas covered by the local lockdown.

Parliamentary scrutiny

The statutory instruments implementing the local lockdown and the subsequent changes were subject to the made affirmative procedure. This means they have to be approved by both Houses following their implementation within a set time limit if they are to remain in force.

The House of Lords is scheduled to debate the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford) Regulations 2020 and the first three amendments to it on 24 September 2020. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, Leicester, and North of England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 is scheduled to be debated separately on 25 September 2020.

In the House of Commons, the regulations establishing the local lockdown in Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford and the first three amendments are scheduled to be debated on 21 September in a delegated legislation committee debate. A date has not been set for a debate in the Commons on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, Leicester, and North of England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee has not drawn any of these statutory instruments to the attention of the House. However, it has published summaries as part of its overview of Covid-19 statutory instruments.

Financial support during the local lockdown

The Government has piloted a scheme for people on low incomes in Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham, and Pendle who have been asked to self-isolate. Under the scheme, people who test positive for Covid-19 and need to self-isolate for ten days will receive £130. Other members of that household who need to self-isolate for a 14-day period will receive £182. Households advised by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate following contact with someone from another household will also be entitled to a payment of up to £182, depending on how long they are advised to self-isolate.

This pilot scheme was discussed in the House of Lords in an oral question on 2 September 2020. Baroness Sherlock (Labour) and Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) asked the Government why it was only providing financial support to those asked to self-isolate. They asked why support was not being offered to people losing income as a result of businesses, such as care homes, having to close in the event of an outbreak. Lord Bethell, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, responded by saying the Government had provided local authorities with £300 million of funding to support the test and trace programme.

How were local lockdown decisions made?

In July 2020, Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) asked the Government what criteria it had used in deciding to introduce the local lockdown in Blackburn. He also asked how decisions to ease the lockdown rules would be made. Lord Bethell gave the following explanation as part of his response on 14 September:

In this case, Blackburn suffered the highest incidence rates of all districts in Lancashire for three consecutive weeks between 13 July and 2 August. Incidents rates per 100,000 population rose from 83.25 and peaked at 91.98 before falling to 74.53 by 2 August once local resources were augmented with national support.

When considering whether an area can come out of a localised lockdown, there will need to be a reduction in cases consistent with the surrounding areas and a significantly diminished risk of further growth. We are keeping these restrictions under review and they will be removed when they are no longer proportionate or necessary. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with involvement of the scientific community and local leaders.

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Image by KGGucwa on Wikimedia.