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Oldham will face extra restrictions, along with Pendle and Blackburn

Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn will face extra restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19, the government has said.

From midnight on Saturday, residents in these areas will not be allowed to socialise with anyone from outside their household.

Workplaces, childcare facilities and businesses, including restaurants and pubs, will remain open.

Since July, the government has been introducing extra restrictions after a spike in cases.

Elsewhere, Birmingham has been added to the government’s watch list, while authorities will intervene in Northampton.

Current tighter rules in Wigan, Darwen and Rossendale are to be dropped.

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People will still be able to go shopping and go to work

The additional measures in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn will not prevent people from shopping, going to work or attending child-care settings including schools which open from 1 September.

However, any social activities indoors and outdoors can only be shared with people you live with and are in your immediate household.

Residents will be advised to avoid using public transport except for essential travel, and the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships and funerals will be limited to household members and close family, with no more than 20 people.

Local restaurants will also be encouraged to halt walk-ins, and only seat people who make reservations in advance.

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The additional measures have been agreed with the local authorities

Councillor Sean Fielding, leader of Oldham Council, has welcomed the announcement the town will not face business closures.

“Over the last few days we’ve made a clear argument that an economic lockdown was not the answer for Oldham,” he said.

“Instead we put forward a strong case to [the] government for a different approach – one where we increase testing, use our powers to drive compliance and enforcement among those not currently following guidelines, and carry out intensive door-to-door engagement in areas with higher cases.”

He added that he believed the tightened measures would “help reduce the spread of the virus”.

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Tightened Covid-19 measures have been imposed in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn

A spokesman for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) also welcomed the news a local lockdown in Oldham had been avoided and that restrictions in Wigan had been lifted.

He said officials had worked “to ensure areas with consistently low infection rates were taken out of the restrictions, so the decision on Wigan’s restrictions being lifted is a welcome one”.

He added: “We have all been concerned about the situation in Oldham and this is why we have sought to work in partnership both with the local council and the Government to agree the most suitable and effective measures, as set out by Oldham Council.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “To prevent a second peak and keep Covid-19 under control, we need robust, targeted intervention where we see a spike in cases.

“Our approach is to make the action we take as targeted as possible, with the maximum possible local consensus.”

Nick Triggle, BBC Health correspondent

With the exception of Northampton, Oldham, Blackburn and Pendle have the highest rate of new infections.

They are seeing between 70 and 90 cases per 100,000 people. That is about half the rate Leicester was in when it was put into lockdown.

This move is about taking pre-emptive action before infections spiral out of control.

What testing shows is that in these places – and a number of other areas in the north west and West Yorkshire for that matter – there is community transmission, often focussed in specific neighbourhoods.

Northampton, which has the highest rate, is quite different as the cases are largely linked to a workplace.

But alongside these extra restrictions, there is also a great deal of work being done that does not get the headlines.

Council staff working hand-in-hand with community groups are knocking on doors, encouraging residents to get tested and stay safe. To help with this, extra testing facilities are opening up.

The targeted testing of people in high infection areas who are not ill is also beginning – one of the major difficulties in fighting this virus is that significant numbers do not show symptoms.

But one issue that keeps cropping up is how to get people to isolate when they have mild symptoms and staying at home means they do not get paid. Many on the ground say this needs to be resolved urgently.

The spike in Northampton was “almost solely down to an outbreak linked to the workforce at the Greencore Factory”, a Department for Health spokesperson said.

Nearly 300 workers have tested positive, and employees and their households are required to isolate at home for two weeks.

The number of cases has also been “rising quickly” in Birmingham, where the majority of new cases have been among those aged between 18 and 34, a government spokesperson said.

The city recorded about 30 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week.

It has been categorised as an ‘Area of Enhanced Support’, which means it will get additional testing, more local contact tracing, and targeted community engagement.

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