Under the new rules, separate households will no longer be able to meet indoors at each other’s homes. Mr Hancock said the changes had been brought in due to “increasing transmission” of COVID-19.
He added households had “not been abiding by the social distancing rules”.
The changes are due to come into force in Greater Manchester, as well as parts of East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
Observers and local residents have taken to social media to express outrage at Mr Hancock’s announcement, with many puzzled over what they are now allowed to do.
Jonathan Reynolds, a Greater Manchester MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “I have to say, a few tweets from a Minister late at night is not the way to announce something as significant as this.”
One Manchester-based Twitter user said: “What about the pubs, restaurants, shops etc.? F*** it, I’ll just meet my family at Tesco, we’ll have a right laugh in the freezer aisle. The government doesn’t have a clue what they are doing!”
Another wrote: “Greater Manchester: Can’t mix with other households from midnight. But you can go to work, the hairdressers, shops, cafes and pubs. Yep, that makes sense.”
One wrote: “We’re being encouraged to go back to offices, buy coffees and sandwiches, but eating with family is the problem? This is playing fast and loose with people’s lives.”
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham welcomed last night’s announcement, and urged residents to “protect each other.”
READ: Manchester lockdown: Urgent measures introduced from TONIGHT in north of England
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said: “I know people are really worried about what they can and can’t do in just a few hours time.
“The way the government has announced this has been an absolute shambles and made it harder to follow advice.
“Please do what you can and we will keep trying to get clarity ASAP.”
One Twitter user sent a plea to Mr Burnham, urging the mayor for clarification over the rules.
They said: “I have not seen my family since March time. I have isolated and hardly been out. I can go to the pub with 100 strangers but not sit in a front room with one member of my own family who has also hardly been out?”
Mr Hancock said last night: “We’re constantly looking at the latest data on the spread of coronavirus, and unfortunately we’ve seen an increasing rate of transmission in parts of Northern England.
“We’ve been working with local leaders across the region, and today I chaired a meeting of the Local Action Gold Committee.
“Based on the data, we decided that in Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire & East Lancashire we need to take immediate action to keep people safe.”