Latest local lockdown rules explained as Birmingham and Slough added to coronavirus watchlist

Emily Cleary
As numbers of Covid-19 cases in Birmingham have increased dramatically in recent weeks, and with the expectation that the city will be added to the 'watch list' of critical areas which may face a local lockdown, people wearing face masks pass near the sign for Birmingham New Street / Grand Central station as they continue to come to the city centre for work and shopping on 18th August 2020 in London, United Kingdom. With other areas in the Midlands under localised lockdown, people and businesses are being urged to follow the Coronavirus advice for workplace and family life help reduce the risk. (photo by Mike Kemp/In PIctures via Getty Images)
As numbers of Covid-19 cases in Birmingham have increased dramatically in recent weeks the city has been added to the "watchlist" of critical areas which may face a local lockdown (photo by Mike Kemp/In PIctures via Getty Images)

Birmingham and Slough have been added to the government “watchlist” highlighted as areas of concern due to rising numbers of coronavirus infection.

Public Health England’s latest COVID-19 surveillance report, published on Friday afternoon, details rates of infection across the country, and categorises areas identified as having high infection rates.

A status of intervention - as currently applies to large parts of the north of England including Oldham and Greater Manchester, as well as Leicester - are already under local lockdown.

In all intervention areas except the town of Northampton - where infection increases have been identified due to an outbreak at a sandwich factory - restrictions have been imposed.

The full list of areas subject to local lockdown can be found at the bottom of the article

On Friday, Oldham and parts of Blackburn and Pendle were told they will face extra restrictions.

The map indicates areas of concern due to rising numbers of coronavirus infections (
The map indicates areas of concern due to rising numbers of coronavirus infections (

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.

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."

Areas requiring ‘enhanced support’ - such as Luton, and now Birmingham - already have some measures in place due to being at a medium to high risk of infections rising considerably in a short space of time.

They will have received more support from central government and mobile testing units have been dispatched.

Areas of concern - Swindon, Wakefield and Slough among others - are classified as where the local area is taking targeted actions to reduce prevalence, for example carrying out additional testing in care homes and increased community engagement with high risk groups. If cases continue to rise they could be subjected to localised restrictions.

Areas of concern
The government has published a "watchlist" of areas under scrutiny for having high rate of infections of coronavirus (

The latest update to the watchlist come as the R rate in the UK rose to between 0.9-1.1, figures from the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) showed.

This is an increase from the range of between 0.8 and 1.0 one week ago.

Which areas have the worst rates of coronavirus?

Large parts of northern England including Greater Manchester, Oldham and Blackburn are all under local lockdown due to high rates of infection. Northampton is also under threat of localised restrictions after 300 workers at a sandwich factory tested positive for coronavirus.

Leicester remains under lockdown although some restrictions have been slightly eased.

A man riding an eScooter speeds past a social distance board on Oxford Street during the Coronavirus pandemic, on 20th August 2020, in London, England. (Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Large parts of England are on a government watchlist having been identified as areas with increasing rates of COVID-19 infection (Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)

What is the UK's R rate?

The R rate refers to the average number of people an infected person will infect. The growth rate of coronavirus transmission, which reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, has changed slightly across the UK since last week, with early indications the value may be increasing.

The latest growth rate for the whole of the UK is between minus 3% to plus 1%, a slight change from between minus 4% to minus 1% last week.

The growth rate means the number of new infections is somewhere between shrinking by 3% and growing by 1% every day.

Will there be a second nationwide lockdown?

The government is keen to avoid a second UK lockdown. In an interview in July, Boris Johnson insisted there would not be another national lockdown, saying the option is now akin to a "nuclear deterrent".

The Prime Minister has allegedly drawn up plans to avoid the scenario, and has said he "certainly" does not want another blanket shutdown "and nor do I think we will be in that position again".

However, he appears to have contradicted his chief scientific adviser, who suggested that a national lockdown could be necessary.

When will local lockdowns next be reviewed?

The government watchlist is updated every Friday but if an area is identified as having a concerning rise in infection levels the government can impose fresh restrictions at any time. At risk areas are subject to ongoing review. National lockdown is reviewed at least every 28 days.

Full list of areas currently under local lockdown measures


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