ST HELENS is being placed under even tighter restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The tighter measures – which focus on stopping people mixing socially in indoor settings – will come into force from the early hours of Saturday following an announcement by health secretary Matt Hancock.

The move to step up restrictions follows an initial wave of local measures coming into place last week and the general restrictions for England.

As expected, the Health Secretary brought the region into line with the additional measures imposed on the North East earlier this week.

The rate of coronavirus in St Helens is the seventh highest in the country and the situation is more severe in neighbouring Knowsley and Liverpool.

The number of patients being admitted to Whiston Hospital with the disease is rising as are cases of admission to intensive care.

The new measures, affecting St Helens, Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, Halton and Warrington (as well as Hartlepool and Middlesbrough) were announced in the House of Commons today.

What were the key points to take from today?

Social mixing

From 00:01am on Saturday morning (October 3) people in St Helens will not be allowed to mix with other households in any indoor setting.

Mixing was already banned in private homes and gardens, but now includes all indoor settings, including pubs, bars and restaurants.

This means you can only now mix indoors with your own household or the people in your support bubble.

You cannot go for a meal or a drink indoors with someone you don't live with (or who isn't in your bubble) in a pub, restaurant or cafe.

So can I meet with friends or family outside?

This is not illegal. Household mixing bans do not extend to outdoor hospitality (such as outdoor cafes or beer gardens) or public places such parks or nature trails.

But the Department of Health GUIDANCE says it is "advised" that people "should not meet with anyone outside their household or support bubble in any outdoor setting".

The rule of six – meaning people can't meet in groups of more than six – would be in place if you meet outside.

Can you meet up with anyone indoors?

Clearly you can mix at home with people you live with at home. And legally you can still go to a pub or restaurant with those people you live with or in your support bubble.

What are the police's powers?

The police will be able to take action against those who break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices for those who participate in illegal gatherings.

Businesses can be fined by local authorities or the police if they fail to fulfil the obligations placed on them in law, such as ensuring that people do not meet in their premises with people outside of their household or support bubble, ensuring that tables are appropriately spaced, that loud music isn’t played and that customers do not sing in non-household groups, or dance.

What's the message on public transport?

Again this is guidance but not law. The advice is to only use public transport done for "essential travel". This includes work and school or travelling for a medical appointment.

Of course you must use wear a mask (unless exempt.

How long will the measures be in place?

We just don't know. Extra restrictions have now been in place in some parts of Greater Manchester for two months. We'll need to see a significant drop in the infection rate before there is a change.

What is a support bubble or childcare bubble?

  • A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household (on an exclusive basis). Households within a bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.
  • A childcare bubble is where someone in one household can provide informal (i.e. unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household. This must occur on an exclusive basis - always the same two households.
  • The Government recommends that you form a support bubble or childcare support bubble with a household that lives locally wherever possible. This will help to prevent the virus spreading from an area where there might be a higher rate of infection.