Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe and Chris Tighe
Residents in the north-east of England will be subject to tough new coronavirus restrictions from Friday, as the government struggles to control the surge in cases.
Under new restrictions announced by health secretary Matt Hancock, residents within Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham, will be unable to socialise with individuals outside of their household or support bubble.
In addition, hospitality outlets in the north-east will be forced to operate under a curfew of 10pm to 5am and will be restricted to table service only.
Announcing the new measures in the House of Commons on Thursday, the health secretary said that he sympathised with residents and did not take the decision “lightly”, adding: “I know that these decisions have a real impact on families, on businesses and local communities.”
Mr Hancock said local authorities had written to him requesting tighter restrictions, following a rise in coronavirus cases in the region. In Sunderland, for example, the Covid-19 infection rate had reached 103 positive cases per 100,000, he added.
According to the latest data from NHS Test and Trace, between September 3 and 9, 18,371 people tested positive for coronavirus in England, a 75 per cent increase from last week and the highest weekly total since May.
The region is the latest in a series of areas that have been subject to localised lockdowns in recent weeks.
Last week, 1.6m residents in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull were told that they would be banned from socialising with other households indoors or in private gardens unless they were within a bubble with them.
The prime minister has repeatedly said that measures including the ‘rule of six’ and localised lockdowns are designed to avoid the country having to return to a national lockdown.
He told MPs at a liaison committee meeting on Wednesday that a second lockdown would be “disastrous”, stating: “I don’t want a second national lockdown – I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.”