Wigan, Rossendale and parts of Blackburn with Darwen have become the first areas released from the so-called northern lockdown on Wednesday morning.
People living there are now able to visit friends and family at home for the first time since 31 July, when they were included in a huge swathe of northern England where coronavirus restrictions were tightened by the government.
Residents will also be able to visit bowling alleys, soft play centres and casinos, stay overnight at other people’s homes, and enjoy beauty treatments – all previously banned under the tightened rules.
All other areas covered by the restrictions – which were imposed on Great Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and chunks of West Yorkshire amid concerns about rising infection rates – will remain under them until at least Friday when there is a further review.
Wigan council leader David Molyneux said it was right the town was the first to be released.
It has maintained relatively low infection rates throughout the period but was included in the general lockdown because of its links and connectedness with the rest of Greater Manchester.
Coun Molyneux said: “I know it hasn’t been easy but by working together and following the rules we’ve managed to keep our loved ones safe.
“I know the tighter restrictions have frustrated many of our residents who felt them unfair, especially since our rates have been consistently low. I shared their frustrations.”
He said he had worked closely with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to advocate the easing of restrictions and suggested future lockdowns must be done on an area by area basis, rather than across whole regions.
Mr Burnham himself said he was grateful a “sensible agreement” had been reached with the government to allow the easing, which was first announced last Friday.
He added that he now wanted to see “further relaxation” in Greater Manchester announced this Friday to recognise that cases were “coming down in Trafford and Stockport”.
In Blackburn with Darwen, meanwhile, the easing of rules has been implemented on a ward by ward basis – the first time such a system has been used in England.
It means that, while parts of the borough remain under ongoing tightened restrictions, others are now more free – a format which may signal how future smaller ‘neighbourhood lockdowns’ might work
The areas in Blackburn with Darwen where all restrictions have been lifted are: Blackburn South & Lower Darwen, Blackburn South East, Darwen East, Darwen South, Darwen West, Ewood, Livesey with Pleasington, Mill Hill & Moorgate, West Pennine.