People living in Wigan have been handed a host of new freedoms as the borough’s lockdown restrictions were eased.
From today, the town will no longer be subject to the extra regulations which have applied to Greater Manchester for the past month.
Last week’s decision to release the borough from the region’s lockdown followed a consistently low number of Covid-19 cases and calls from the town’s leaders.
The news has mostly been welcomed by people living in the town, many of whom felt the restrictions were ‘unfair’.
As of this morning (Wednesday, August 26), businesses will be allowed to reopen across Wigan and Leigh and rules restricting visits to people’s homes will also be eased – bringing the borough in line with the rest of the UK.
Residents will now be allowed to:
- Socialise in groups of up to two households indoors.
- Stay overnight at somebody else’s home – but must try to social distance.
- Book close contact services such as facials and brow or eyelash treatments.
- Visit bowling alleys, roller rinks, soft play centres and casinos.
Wigan was been the borough with the lowest number of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester over recent weeks, with statistics far below the likes of Oldham’s and Rochdale’s.
The return of lockdown rules on July 31 caused frustration for the borough’s residents partly due to the low infection rates, as well as the fact Wigan straddles Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire, creating confusion as to which regulations apply.
In the days following, Leigh MP James Grundy led the calls for the restrictions to be lifted in the borough.
His pleas were later echoed by other prominent figures including Makerfield MP, Yvonne Fovargue, and Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham.
Despite the rules now having changed in Wigan, the rest of Greater Manchester’s boroughs still remain subject to the lockdown.
This means people cannot travel to these areas and visit someone from another household indoors, whether that is in their home, garden or at pubs and restaurants.
And, to help keep infection rates down and avoid tighter restrictions being implemented again, residents are being asked to maintain social distancing of 2m – or 1m with extra precautions – and wear a face covering when entering shops or using public transport.
The government has also revealed plans for hyper-local lockdowns and Wigan Council’s public health team will be closely monitoring infection rates across the borough to take action in specific wards if ‘hotspots’ appear.
Speaking after the restrictions were eased, Wigan Council leader, Coun David Molyneux, thanked residents for doing their bit to reduce the spread of the virus.
He said: “I’d like to thank our residents for being responsible, patient and kind throughout the pandemic. I know it hasn’t been easy but by working together and following the rules we’ve managed to keep our loved ones safe.
“I know the tighter restrictions have frustrated many of our residents who felt them unfair, especially since our rates have been consistently low. I shared their frustration and have been working closely with the mayor to ensure that those concerns were heard and acted upon.
“I’m pleased that the government has listened and reversed their decision to impose rules on the whole region rather than making decisions on a case by case basis.
“However, it is important that we continue to act responsibly as the restrictions start to ease, by following social distancing guidelines, washing our hands, wearing a face covering where appropriate and wiping surfaces to avoid tougher restrictions in the future.”
Wigan’s coronavirus infection rate currently stands at 12.2, with 40 cases recorded in the week ending August 22 – up by eight from the week before.
It means the borough’s rate is no longer the lowest in Greater Manchester after Stockport’s infection rate dipped to 11.2 cases per 100,000 people over the same period.