Ministers will gain new powers to intervene if local authorities do not act quickly enough against coronavirus outbreaks, Boris Johnson has said.
In a series of tweets, Johnson announced that ministers would be able to close “whole sectors or types of premises” in a given area, impose localised stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving certain areas, limit the maximum number of people at a gathering, and reduce transport in local areas. This would be “guided by evidence”, he said.
Johnson added the details would be outlined in draft regulations published next week.
From Saturday, local councils have gained greater powers to help avert local lockdowns, including the ability to shut down shops, events and close public outdoor spaces.
Johnson said that while these powers would “enable them to act more quickly in response to outbreaks”, they would “not always be sufficient” and ministers should be able to intervene.
“I know that it will be hard-going for people affected by these local measures. It isn’t easy, and for some it may seem unjust that people just a short distance away can live their lives closer to normal,” he said. “But it has to be right that we take local action in response to local outbreaks – there is no point shutting down a city in one part of the country to contain an outbreak in another part of the country.”
The prime minister said the government’s understanding of the epidemiology of coronavirus and its transmission had “vastly improved”, enabling “targeted, local action”.
He said the government had already taken action in specific premises in Weston-super-Mare and Kirklees, and introduced targeted measures in Bradford and Blackburn with Darwen, alongside the localised lockdown imposed in Leicester at the end of June.
The announcement comes after local authority figures welcomed the increased powers for local governments, with James Jamieson, the chair of the Local Government Association saying that “councils know their local communities best and know how to address each unique outbreak”.