Local restrictions are set to change in parts of the Greater Manchester region, it has been revealed today.
All nine boroughs have been subjected to tighter measures since the end of July, and whilst these guidelines are will remain intact in many towns – some changes are being made to the worst and least affected areas.
Here’s what’s been happening in a nutshell.
The Government is set to release Wigan from the restrictions currently imposed on Greater Manchester.
Out of all GM boroughs, Wigan has recorded the lowest number of positive tests by some distance.
The Health Secretary has obliged, which means Wigan residents will once again be able to mix with other households both indoors and outdoors.
Restrictions will be lifted on Wednesday 26 August.
A GMCA spokesperson said it was “right” that the Government has lifted the restrictions for Wigan “given the consistently low infection rate.”
They warned: “The situation remains challenging and everyone in Greater Manchester must continue to observe social distancing, handwashing as well as wearing a face covering in indoor spaces.”
Oldham, meanwhile, has narrowly evaded a local lockdown – but restrictions have been tightened.
Whilst cases have gone down in the past week, the town continues to have one of the highest infection rates in the UK.
From today, residents are being warned to:
not socialise with anyone from outside their household indoors or outdoors
not use public transport unless it is an essential trip
keep weddings, civil partnerships and funerals limited to 20 people with only household members and close family in attendance
Restaurants in the area are also being told to stop walk-ins and encourage every customer to book ahead.
A GMCA spokesperson said: “Greater Manchester’s Leaders main objective this week was to avoid a local lockdown in Oldham so we are glad we have been able to agree this with the Government.
“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.
“Increased measures to restrict the mixing of households are a much more sensible approach than local lockdown. We are pleased that the Health Secretary has listened to what Leaders said in their letter to him yesterday.
The ban on meeting other households indoors currently remains intact in every other Greater Manchester borough.
Some reports have suggested the Government could adopt a new approach moving ahead and release individual neighbourhoods upon the recommendations of council leaders and local MPs.
However, the GMCA have stated that the current strategy “is showing signs of progress”.
The combined authority added: “We believe cases will continue to decrease in the borough and across Greater Manchester if we all follow the guidelines and collectively protect the health of everyone in Greater Manchester.”
A further update will be made next week.
‘Significant risk’ of UK gas shortages this winter, regulator warns
Energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK faces a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter.
According to reports in The Times, the regulator has unveiled concerns that the country could face blackouts over the coming months thanks to an undersupply of gas to Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Warning that a “gas supply emergency” could be looming ahead, the energy regulator has said that some gas-fired power plants could see their supplies cut off, which in turn would stop generators from producing electricity.
The alert comes just days before an expected update from the National Grid on the likelihood of countrywide power cuts this winter.
Responsing to arequest from SSE, which owns several gas power stations, Ofgem outlined what is set to be a huge issue of concern given that the UK relies on large gas plants to produce the biggest share of its electricity supply.
The regulator also pointed to rules that could see power plants penalised as a result of shortages, warning of a worst-case scenario that would see the “potential insolvency of gas-fired generators” caused by rules that require plants to pay huge charges if they fail to deliver on promised quotas.
Adding that the issue must be addressed to prevent a “significant impact on the safety and security of the electricity and/or gas systems”, the regulator echoed concerns now widespread in Europe as its comments followed a similar statement made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this morning.
Europeans are already being told they must lower their thermostats and boilers in preparation in case gas supplies are cut off, with Paris-based agency IEA warning today that the EU must focus on getting underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in case of a complete Russian supply shut-off.
Preparation are already being made in Europe with the German government having approved a set of energy-saving measures for the winter to limit use in public buildings. In France, meanwhile, companies have already been warned they may face energy rationing this winter.
Whilst the UK government is yet to announce any energey saving measures, Ofgem has said that it expect s“this winter to be more challenging than last year” and that it is taking “reasonable regulatory steps to mitigate and reduce the risks”.