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Coronavirus: New restrictions in north-east England

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

image copyrightReuters

image captionThe Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham council areas are affected

Almost two million people in north-east England will see more restrictions following a rise in coronavirus cases.

The temporary measures include restrictions on households mixing and pubs closing earlier at night.

The Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham council areas will be affected from midnight.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were “concerning rates of infection in the North East”.

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He said Sunderland currently had an infection rate of 103 cases per 100,000 people, while in South Tyneside Gateshead and Newcastle the figures are all above 70.

The government was taking “swift action” after concerns were raised by the councils covering the affected areas, he said.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPubs in the affected areas in the North East will be made to shut at 22:00 BST

Under the new restrictions Mr Hancock said residents will not be able to mix with people outside their households and support bubbles.

Restaurants will only be able to offer table service and restaurants, bars and pubs will have to shut between 22:00 BST and 05:00.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said the temporary measures would hopefully “head off the potential of any further damaging full lockdown across the region”.

“The evidence we’ve found from local testing is that it’s spreading in three main areas – in pubs, in people’s homes and in grassroots sports,” he said.

“So [council leaders] have put together a series of requests to government for additional restrictions around these areas for a fixed period of time to try to prevent a damaging full lockdown.”

The council leaders had also requested additional funding for policing to enforce the measures, as well as additional local testing facilities, Mr Forbes added.

County Durham’s director of public health, Amanda Heeley, said: “If we do want to be able to continue to go to work to schools, to keep in contact with relatives but stop an increase in the cases we have seen, we are really urging people to adhere to the guidance coming out today.”

Analysis

By Daniel Wainwright, BBC England data unit

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe health secretary said there were “concerning rates of infection in the North East”

While the rates of new coronavirus infections in the affected parts of the north-east England are lower than those in places like Bolton, this is not a simply a case of rankings.

Rates of new infections in areas like South Tyneside and Sunderland are at their highest since May and have been climbing for the past few weeks.

Other areas affected by the new restrictions, such as Northumberland, have much lower rates per 100,000 population but it is clear that infections have been climbing there too.

Northumberland’s rate of 25.7 cases per 100,000 in the week to 13 September means it is outside the top 100 of 315 areas of England for new infections.

However, when the government imposed tighter restrictions on Greater Manchester, the east of Lancashire and West Yorkshire in the summer, areas with lower rates were also included.

At the time, Wigan in Greater Manchester and Rossendale in Lancashire were not seeing the same rates of infection as their neighbouring boroughs and districts, but Public Health England included them because they were “part of an area in which overall infection rates are high, with household transmission a key pathway”.

It will be the same for Northumberland, with people travelling to and from work in other areas of the North East.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said: “Nobody welcomes these things but I would think the vast majority of people recognise these are extremely difficult times and we all need to act and pull together.

“The majority of people understand and we expect to get support from most.”

Matt Hancock said that the people of the North East will “come together” to beat the virus.

He said: “I know, the whole House knows, that these decisions have a real impact on families, on businesses and on local communities and I can tell everyone affected that we do not take these decisions lightly.

“We agree with the local councils that we must follow the data and act and the data says that we must act now so that we can control the virus and keep people safe.”

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