The Government will not “shy away” from taking further action to tackle coronavirus across England if necessary, Matt Hancock has said.
It comes after it was announced that people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in virus cases.
The new rules, which came into effect from midnight, also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.
Mr Hancock said the Government would be prepared to take further action in other parts of the country if it is necessary.
He told Sky News: “We’ve demonstrated that we’re prepared to take the action that’s necessary to keep people safe.
“That was true in Leicester when we took action there and we’re taking much more localised action in hundreds of different locations right across the country.
“And we are seeing in some parts of the country that increase in the number of cases and we take action where we need to.
“Now, in the south-west and the south-east of England, thankfully, the number of cases is much, much lower so we haven’t had to take this sort of action.
“But we don’t shy away from taking it wherever it’s necessary.
“Of course we’d rather not because of the impact it has on people’s lives, but we’re prepared to if that’s needed.”
The Health Secretary also insisted that the new rules brought into force in Greater Manchester are “crystal clear”, despite many voicing their confusion at the measures when they were announced late on Thursday.
He said: “Well of course, you know it is absolutely crystal clear… what the new rules are.
““And we brought them in to target specifically the problems that we’ve been able to see through the data because we want to keep the control of the spread of this virus, we want to do that with the minimum impact on people’s lives.
“I appreciate these decisions do have significant impacts on people’s lives but we want to do it with the minimum impact.”
While acknowledging that the Government was right to take action, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said that ministers should have the detail of any changes in lockdown measures at the same time that they go in front of the cameras.
Mr Burnham told Sky News: “I understand how hard this is for government ministers having been one myself.
“I think at the moment they’re adopting (what) feels like a new strategy of the minute they see something they are taking decisive action, and I think that’s probably the right way to do.
“But here’s the one caveat I would place on it, they have a habit of saying something and then it being a few hours until the detail emerges.
“And that certainly was the case last night, and later on last night a lot of people I think felt very uncertain about what exactly was being announced.
“So what I would say to them (ministers) is I understand the need to make announcements, I understand the need for decisive action, but when ministers go in front of the cameras, make sure you’ve got the detail ready to go exactly at the same time.”