MPs and mayors demand rethink of Government’s 10pm pub curfew rule following chaotic scenes at weekend

Meeting friends in the pub has been made illegal in the North-East after ministers imposed one of the strictest lockdown measures to date.

New laws banning households from mixing were extended to all social settings, including bars, restaurants and cafes, punishable with fines for anyone who breaks the rule.

It came as MPs, councils and mayors demanded a rethink of the Government’s 10pm pub curfew rule, following chaotic scenes at the weekend of drinkers “piling out of pubs” and filling the streets at closing time.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, announced that for the first time since pubs and restaurants were allowed to re-open it will be against the law to visit them with anyone outside your own household.

The rule applies to Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland, but is likely to be used in other parts of the country if infection rates keep rising, with discussions already taking place on Merseyside about stricter rules being imposed there.

Although people in the North East had already been advised not to mix with other households, the guidance had failed to bring infection rates down, with six of the seven areas reporting infection rates of more than 100 people in every 100,000.

The Government has also been urged to ban households from mixing in London by Mayor Sadiq Khan after infection rates rose in every borough, although Downing Street said it did not expect further lockdown measures in the capital this week.

The new laws in the North East has led to warnings that pubs and restaurants may have to close through lack of business, having already taken a huge hit to their revenues because of the nationwide rule forcing them to close their doors at 10pm.

Local leaders including Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, have called for an urgent review of the 10pm rule, with Mr Burnham suggesting it “is doing more harm than good”.

He said supermarkets were “packed to the rafters” with people buying food and drink after the pubs shut, and hinted that shops should be banned from selling alcohol after curfew.

Ministers are understood to have discussed a number of possible measures, including voluntary rotas for pubs in city centres to have staggered closing times.

The Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, told the House of Commons: “We’ve seen this weekend pictures of people piling out of pubs at 10 o’clock on the dot into busy streets, public transport packed, supermarkets busy as people buy more drink – how does this help contain the spread of the virus?

“So can I ask the Secretary of State to undertake a rapid and transparent review of all the evidence of the 10 o’clock rule?”

Earlier, Mr Hancock had said: “We always look at the effects of these policies, we’ve got to take everything into the round including the level of social distancing that might have been going on were that to continue all through the night.”

Five Conservative MPs in the Tees Valley have said they are united against more largescale lockdowns and have urged local authorities to adopt more targeted shutdowns.

The five – Simon Clarke, Jacob Young, Matt Vickers, Peter Gibson and Paul Howell – said in a letter to local public bodies: “A ban on household mixing as winter approaches would in practice condemn thousands of local people to loneliness and isolation – even with mitigating measures in place.

“We must continue to deliver a proportionate approach to the risk posed by the virus. Whilst a second wave of Covid-19 presents a risk, we have far greater knowledge of the virus than we did earlier in the year, including access to vastly improved treatments, which enables our response to evolve beyond the blanket measures put in place in March.”

The ban on meeting friends in the North East will come into force at 12.01am on Wednesday.

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News – Meeting friends in pubs in North-East now illegal under strictest coronavirus rules yet