Late on Thursday night, Mohammed Nawaz’s dining table in Oldham was groaning under an Eid al-Adha feast carefully prepared for the following morning.
His family’s new clothes were laid out ready to spend the next day with uncles, aunties, cousins and parents after months apart while observing lockdown rules, even through Ramadan.
But in what became a heartbreaking night, this would all go to waste. The Nawaz family would be spending Eid alone after the health secretary announced on Twitter on Thursday that from midnight people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Leicester would not be able to meet each other indoors or in their gardens.
Earlier this week people in Oldham were told to stop visiting friends and family to avoid a full local lockdown after the number of coronavirus cases more than quadrupled in a week. Health officials in the Greater Manchester town imposed new restrictions on Tuesday after the confirmed number of cases rose from 26 to 119 in the week to 25 July.
The measures were introduced on the eve of Eid al-Adha celebrations and their introduction was caused largely by people “not abiding to social distancing”, Hancock said.
But the timing of this lockdown has left residents frustrated. Standing in Oldham town centre, Nawaz pointed towards a pub where groups of people were gathered. “I don’t understand it. This is so bad for us and we cannot see each other, but look, the pubs are open and people are drinking and can go dancing but we can’t see our family. Why?”
The retired taxi driver’s thoughts were echoed by Mohammed Miah, 33, who said the Muslim community felt like the targets of the lockdown.
“We have been singled out, otherwise why would you announce a lockdown the night before Eid? t’s sending out a certain kind of message,” he said. “I’m just grateful that my mother lives with us, but there will be so many others we will not get to see. They could have given us some notice, even just a few days, but to do it the night before when all the meals were prepared and we had made plans is just not right.”
For Carole and David Marsland life will pretty much continue as normal with the new lockdown measures not really affecting their day-to-day lives. Carole, a care home worker, said: “Not much of a lockdown really for us because we can still go out and pop to the pub if we want – but we know for Asian people it’s been harder because today is Eid for them.
“If this happened on Christmas day we would be upset so we understand where they’re coming from.”
Shariqa Yasmin, a 25-year-old carer, made a similar point. “None of my family have had coronavirus or died from it and we’ve been following the rules but to do this today makes us all feel like we’ve done something wrong. Would they ever do this with New Year or Christmas?” she said. “We will just have to accept it and not see people but the way this has been handled does not feel nice.”