GRANDPARENTS and other people who provide informal childcare will be exempt from coronavirus rules in local lockdown areas, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

In a U-turn from the Government, areas in England with enhanced coronavirus restrictions will now allow people to look after children under 14 or vulnerable adults from outside their household.

Restrictions will come into force in parts of the north west at midnight tonight meaning people cannot socialise with others outside of their own households or support bubble, in private homes and gardens.

But there will now be an exemption for caring purposes, Mr Hancock told MPs.

He acknowledged that such arrangements were a 'lifeline' for many people, and without them they were unable to do their jobs.

The exemption will not allow parents to send their children to 'playdates or parties' with friends from another household.

Mr Hancock told MPs: "I’ve heard their concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements

"For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline without which they couldn’t do their jobs.

"So today I’m able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14 or vulnerable adults, where that is necessary for caring purposes.

"This covers both formal and informal arrangements.

"It does not allow for playdates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship, that is vital for somebody to get to work, is allowed."

Conservative Warrington South MP Andy Carter says he has had lots of questions about childcare since the new measures were announced on Friday.

He added: "Over the weekend I've raised concerns with the health secretary Matt Hancock about the need to look at informal arrangements for looking after young children when parents are at work.

"These changes mean grandparents/carers can continue to look after young children, providing this is a consistent arrangement. I will publish more detailed guidance once I have it.

"Separately, the Government has also introduced a new self-isolation coronavirus grant for people in work on low incomes.

"Individuals on a low income will be able to claim a £500 lump sum payment if they cannot work from home and are required to self-isolate.

"This payment is aimed at helping make up for any lost income people face due to having to stay at home."