People who have travelled to Greater Manchester from Wales are being told to self isolate for 10 days.
According to the Manchester Evening news, the region’s 10 public health directors say the new strain of Covid-19 – believed to be behind huge spikes in the south of England – is “extremely worrying”.
As a result, anyone who has travelled to Greater Manchester from Wales – or England’s ‘Tier 4’ areas – for Christmas is now being told to self-isolate for at least 10 days.
The conurbation’s 10 public health directors issued the dramatic call in a statement on Monday afternoon, urging anyone arriving to remain in whichever house they are staying at for that period, starting from Saturday, December 19.
They are being urged not to have visitors over that time, including on Christmas Day, although people in the same house do not need to self-isolate unless anyone develops symptoms.
Essentially this means anyone travelling to the area from Wales, London and large parts of the South East is being told not leave the house or host festive gatherings until December 29.
That goes significantly further than any national guidance from government, although ministers have already warned anyone living in Tier 4 areas not to travel.
Despite this, on the weekend videos were shared of scenes at London’s St Pancras station of people fleeing the capital northwards before the new national rules came in at midnight on Sunday.
Manchester Evening News reports public health departments in Manchester are alarmed that the new strain of Covid in circulation could be about to hit their communities too.
People who live in Greater Manchester have also been told to “take extreme care from this moment on”.
Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, Director of Public Health in Tameside, said: “The new strain of Covid, which is increasingly rapidly in Tier 4 areas, is extremely worrying. It is incredibly infectious and if you come in to contact with someone with this strain you are far more likely to catch it than the original strain.
“We are so concerned about the potential grave impact of this that we have taken the difficult decision to ask anyone who has travelled here for Christmas from any Tier 4 area or Wales to act as if they have this new variant, even if they have no symptoms, and self-isolate for at least 10 days.”
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While other people living in the same house do not need to self isolate, “no visitors should be allowed in that house at all, even on Christmas Day”.
“We are asking people to follow the same rules households have done when schoolchildren have been asked to isolate after coming in contact with someone who is positive,” she said.
“The individual is the only one who needs to isolate, but if, during that time, anyone in the house gets symptoms, they must all isolate and the person with symptoms get a test straight away.”
On Saturday the Prime Minister announced at a Downing Street briefing that a new strain of Covid, said to be considerably more infectious than previous kinds, was thought to be behind rocketing rates in the South East of England.
A new ‘Tier 4’ category – effectively the same rules that applied during November’s national lockdown – was introduced for the capital and many surrounding areas, with people living there told not to leave or to mix households over Christmas.
A national lockdown was then introduced in Wales for the same reason.
But the decision turned some people’s plans into chaos, with some choosing to travel to other areas for Christmas before the restrictions came into place. Others may have even already arrived before the new rules were announced.
The Manchester Evening News understands there are concerns the strain may already be part of rising rates in areas including Lancashire and Cumbria, although as yet, officials are not thought to have identified significant levels.
It’s said it’s feared the infectiousness of the new strain, combined with Christmas travel, means it could simply be a matter of time.
As a result Greater Manchester’s public health departments are asking “every single person in Greater Manchester to take extreme care from this moment on”, said Dr de Gruchy.
“You can minimise your chances of catching Covid – even the new strain – by scrupulously sticking to the guidance around keeping at least two metres away from people at all times, wearing a face covering, washing your hands frequently and staying in well ventilated places,” she said.
“If you’re inside this means having the windows open for at least 15 to 20 minutes every hour.
“We know so many people have been doing their bit for so long, and we know everyone desperately wishes we could see an end to the restrictions, but it’s more important than ever that we all put in that extra effort to keep our friends and families safe in the coming weeks.”