New local restrictions are being introduced in northeast England – including curfews for bars and pubs and a ban on people mixing with others outside their household.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is set to confirm the measures in a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday morning after the government’s talks with North East councils and local MPs.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, told Sky News that his council had asked the government for “additional temporary restrictions” after becoming “very concerned about the exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases across the North East”.
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“Our evidence from contact tracing tells us it’s happening broadly in three main areas; in bars and pubs, in people’s homes, and in grassroots sports,” he said.
“So what we’ve done is try to get ahead of the curve and ask government for some additional temporary restrictions so that we can get on top of the virus in all of those areas.”
Mr Forbes revealed the restrictions would include:
- table service only in bars and pubs
- all bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes to close at 10pm
- delivery service only for takeaways after 10pm
- restrictions on households meeting up with other households outside of social bubbles
- restrictions on some major events
Explaining the reason for a 10pm curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants, Mr Forbes said: “One of the challenges has been groups of people meeting up in our towns and city centres very late at night and after a few drinks that means social distancing goes out the window.
“So we want to ensure that isn’t another opportunity for the virus to keep spreading.”
Mr Forbes added that Newcastle City Council had asked for an exemption on informal childcare arrangements with extended family members.
“I appreciate these are not easy measures and people have worked so hard to get businesses up and running again after the national lockdown – there might be some fear about the impact of these,” he said.
“But we are working with businesses and we want to ensure that all of our businesses who worked very hard to ensure they’re COVID-secure and COVID-safe continue to operate through this with some additional measures just to curb the spread of the virus where we know the spread is happening most prevalent.”
It has been reported the new lockdown rules in the North East will apply in Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland.
According to Sky News data, the two-week coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 in the seven local authority areas facing new restrictions are:
- Sunderland: 155.7
- South Tyneside: 155.1
- Gateshead: 139.7
- Newcastle 116.3
- North Tyneside: 85
- County Durham: 70.2
- Northumberland: 47.1
Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, criticised the government’s “farcical” handling of rising infection rates in northeast England as he branded the testing programme in the region a “shambles”.
Earlier on Thursday morning, health minister Edward Argar told Sky News that the North East was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in northwest England.
He said: “In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West.
“We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action.”
Mr Argar said, in northwest England, the rise in infections was due to people not adhering to social distancing rules with different households meeting up in close proximity.
He added: “Obviously a night-time economy can fuel that when people have been to the pub, people have been out late into the evening.
“That’s one of the ways in which that transmission can increase.”
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