Lockdown changes due to take effect in England on Saturday have been postponed with hours to spare.
Plans to reopen bowling alleys, casinos and ice rinks in England from Saturday will be shelved.
Pilots of larger crowds in sports centres will not now take place, he said.
Opposition party leaders were told of the change in a phone call this morning ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference at noon.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government has advised against travel to parts of northern England facing lockdown restrictions.
Wales is also urging people in the parts of the north of England where local lockdowns have been brought in to follow hand hygiene rules and social distancing if they visit Welsh beaches.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a press conference today that he was putting lockdown easing on hold because cases of the virus appeared to be rising for the first time since May.
He said: “We cannot ignore this.”
He also defended the late-night imposition of lockdown restrictions in the north of England saying that officials “had to act quickly”.
“Our plan to reopen the society and economy is conditional,” he said.
“We must squeeze that brake pedal to keep the virus under control.”
You can see live updates from First Minister Mark Drakeford’s press conference on lockdown easing here, and details of all the announcements to lockdown changes that we know about here.
From August 3:
- Up to 30 people from any number of households can meet outside
- Children aged under 11 will no longer have to remain two metres apart from people outside their household
- Restaurants, pubs, and cafés allowed to re-open indoors
- Indoor bowling alleys, auction houses, and bingo halls can allow open
- Licensed wedding venues can re-open but receptions must take place outside
From August 10:
- Gyms, swimming pools, and leisure centres are all expected to be able to re-open
- Indoor play areas, including soft play centres, will be able to open again
From August 15:
- People may be able to meet indoors if infection rates continue to fall
The Government was already facing fury over its “disastrous” announcement of new coronavirus rules for millions of people in northern England.
Chaos reigned after people in the whole of Greater Manchester, and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, were told they could no longer meet people from another household indoors.
The ban – which took effect from midnight at three hours’ notice – includes all indoor settings, be they private homes or pubs, as well as private gardens.
Not even some local public health directors knew about the announcement until Matt Hancock made it in a short video clip after 9pm.
A government Q&A on the changes was only published at 22 minutes past midnight. And while people will be fined £100 for breaking the rules, the law to enforce this doesn’t yet exist.
Yet Health Secretary Mr Hancock today bizarrely claimed the rules were “crystal clear”.
Mr Hancock made the shock announcement after lengthy meetings with local leaders on Thursday.
He told Sky News last night: “We have been looking at the data and unfortunately we’ve seen across parts of northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.”
On 17 July, Boris Johnson held a press conference to announce sweeping relaxations of lockdown rules, which were expected to take effect from tomorrow, Saturday August 1.
The biggest change announced was that employees would no longer be told they should work from home where possible, and instead should return to their workplaces where it’s safe to do so.
He also announced bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos and beauty salons could all reopen.