Grandparents and other relatives will be exempt from local lockdowns for childcare purposes, the government has announced.
The U-turn came today as Health Secretary Matt Hancock addressed the House of Commons.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, the Conservative minister acknowledged the "concerns" about the impact of local lockdowns on family childcare arrangements.
A series of new coronavirus restrictions are due to come into force across many parts of England from tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, including in the North West, the Midlands and West Yorkshire.
Last week, new local restrictions were imposed in the North East, where people have been told they must not socialise with others outside their own households, or support bubble, in private homes and gardens.
But there will now be an exemption for caring purposes, Hancock told MPs.
"I've heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements," he said.
"For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline without which they couldn't do their jobs.
"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 play dates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship that is vital for somebody to get to work is allowed."
He added: "I hope this change will provide clarity and comfort to many people who are living with these local restrictions."
Hancock also acknowledged how hard it has been for many communities facing local action in efforts to tackle the virus.
He told the Commons: "We know from experience that local action can work when local communities come together to follow the rules, tackle the virus and keep themselves safe.
"I know how hard this is. We’re constantly looking for how we can ensure measures bear down on the virus as much as possible while protecting both lives and livelihoods."
It comes as experts warn the UK's coronavirus alert level is set to rise to four.
This means the rate of infection in the country is "high or spreading exponentially".