England councils get new powers for local shutdowns

Councils in England have been given new powers to close shops, cancel events and shut outdoor public spaces to manage local COVID-19 outbreaks.

Announcing the new powers for councils, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Friday’s Downing Street press briefing: “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.”

Johnson also said Ministers would receive clearer guidance on where they can intervene to “close whole sectors or types of premises in an area” and advise people in specific postcodes to stay at home, the BBC reported.

He added that the additional powers would allow local authorities “to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount”, in what he called “lightning lockdowns”.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents council leaders in England, welcomed the move, saying it hoped it would prevent the need for stricter local lockdown measures.

Following the announcement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that the government would provide daily updates to local areas.

The new powers for councils came as Johnson set out a “roadmap” for a return to “normality” by Christmas as part of an easing of the lockdown in England.

He said it was his “sincere hope” the remaining restrictions could be reviewed in November, at the earliest, and possibly dropped by Christmas.

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