Separate households are banned from meeting indoors from today in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire after a rise in coronavirus cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News the new restrictions were “absolutely necessary”, adding: “When you face a pandemic like this, it is important to move quickly if that’s what needed.”
The news comes after the UK saw it’s highest daily total of COVID-19 cases for more than a month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the virus was “bubbling up” in up to 30 areas across the UK.
The order, affecting roughly four million people, covers:
It means people in these areas will not be permitted to mix with other households (apart from those in their support bubbles) in private homes or gardens.
It is understood there is currently no endpoint to the restrictions but they will be subject to a weekly review.
Data shows that there has been less transmission in the area when people go to work or shops, he added.
“This is not the sort of decision anybody would want to take but as we’ve seen before it is important to move quickly,” the health secretary said.
He also said his “heart goes out” to the Muslim community ahead of Eid celebrations, which will likely be heavily impacted by the new restrictions.
Mr Hancock added: “We’re constantly vigilant and we’ve been looking at the data, and unfortunately we’ve seen across parts of northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the way the announcement was made, branding it a “new low for the government’s communications”.