The government said today that law firms in Greater Manchester and other newly-restricted areas can still open offices as long as they adhere to Covid-19 safety guidelines.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced on Thursday evening that from Friday people from different households would not be allowed to meet each other in areas of northern England. Affected regions are Greater Manchester and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
Hancock said in a threaded tweet: ‘We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of Covid across Europe and are determined to do whatever is neccessary to keep people safe.’
Two weeks ago, the government had said that lockdown measures would be eased from 1 August, with employers told to encourage people back into work. A number of firms made plans to reopen their offices from August for a limited number of people, including Shoosmiths, which said this week it would reopen all its offices – including Manchester – from Monday.
In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the government said those in affected areas should not socialise with people who they do not live with in indoor public venues. This covers pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and places of worship – but offices are not included. People may attend these venues with people they live with (or are in a support bubble with), but should avoid interaction with others.
The guidance adds: ‘People living inside and outside of this area can continue to travel in and out for work. Workplaces must implement Covid-19 secure guidance.’
The government says it will pass new laws to enforce the changes to meeting people in private homes and gardens. The police will be able to take action against those that break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices (starting at £100 – halving to £50 if paid in the first 14 days – and doubling for subsequent offences).
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.