The Health Secretary told the House of Commons on Monday afternoon that there will be “legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting”
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Local lockdown measures in the North East have been tightened in a bid to stop an even greater explosion of Covid-19 cases.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the region will be subject to even tougher restrictions than those already imposed – as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise.
The new measures will mean that people from different households will be banned under law from mixing indoors in any setting, including pubs or restaurants, and would face fines for doing so.
Under the regulations that came into force on Friday, September 18, almost two million people in Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham were banned from socialising with other people outside of their own households or support bubbles in private homes and gardens.
People were also advised not to socialise with people outside of their household in any public venue either, but that was only guidance and not against the law – though that now looks set to change.
Mr Hancock told the House of Commons that there will be “legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting”, but did not announce when the stricter measures would begin.
He said: “Unfortunately the number of cases continues to rise sharply. The incident rate across the area is now over 100 cases per 100,000.
“We know that a large number of these infections are taking place in indoor settings outside the home. And so, at the request of the local councils with whom we have been working closely, we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting.”
The health secretary added: “We do not take these steps lightly, but we must take them and take them now because we know that swift action is more likely to bring the virus under control.
“And the quicker we can get this virus under control the quicker we can restore the freedoms we all enjoy in the North East and across the country.”
Mr Hancock also did not say whether visits to other households for informal childcare, such as grandparents looking after children, will still be permitted under the revised rules.
Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues also remain limited to table service only and have a 10pm curfew.
Coronavirus infection rates have continued to rise rapidly across the area in the past week – with Newcastle, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Gateshead, Northumberland, and North Tyneside all in the top 30 council areas with the highest number of new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to September 24, according to latest Public Health England figures.
Newcastle’s Liberal Democrats issued a call last Thursday for even tougher measures to be introduced to prevent the region being plunged into a full lockdown.
City council leader Nick Forbes responded then that it was “too early” to question the lockdown measures already imposed because the Covid case data always runs a few days behind the current situation.
According to Public Health England data covering the seven days to September 24, Newcastle now has the highest rate of infection in the North East and the fourth highest in England – with the city’s numbers almost tripling.
Newcastle recorded 746 new cases in that week, with an infection rate of 246.4 per 100,000 people. That was compared to 271 new cases and a rate of 89.5 in the previous 7 days.
South Tyneside had previously had the second highest rate in England, but is now eighth according to the latest figures. The borough recorded 391 new cases with an infection rate of 211.3 per 100,000.
Sunderland has 524 new cases and a rate of 188.7, with Gateshead reporting 297 new cases and a rate of 147 in the seven days to September 24.
Northumberland reported 444 new cases and a rate of 137.7 – a huge spike in the county, with numbers nearly trebling in the space of a week. In the seven days to September 17, Northumberland reported 161 new Covid cases.
County Durham had 493 new Covid cases in the week to September 24, a rate of 93 per 100,000 people.
News – Matt Hancock tightens North East ban on households mixing