Local lockdown for County Durham and North East
LOCKDOWN measures have been announced for County Durham after a rise in virus cases in the region.
Although County Durham has a lower rate of cases than places such as Newcastle and Sunderland, it is understood North East leaders have pushed for restrictions covering a wide area to make them as effective as possible – limiting the risk of, for example, people crossing borough borders to find an open pub.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons this morning: “From tomorrow, in Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham, residents should not socialise with other people outside their own households or support bubble.
“Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only and late night restrictions on operating hours will be introduced so leisure and entertainment venues must close between 10pm and 5am.”
A support bubble allows a single-adult household to join with one other household of any size. Full details of all the restrictions the region will face are yet to be announced.
MPs heard the measures have been made following the request of the seven councils, including Durham County Council.
Mr Hancock added: “The data says we must act now so we can control the virus and keep people safe. I know the people of the North East will come together to defeat this virus, as defeat it we must.”
Mr Hancock told the House of Commons that Sunderland now had a Covid-19 rate of 103 positive cases per 100,000 people, with the number above 70 in Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said on Thursday that the temporary restrictions would hopefully “head off the potential of any further damaging full lockdown across our region”.
He added: “We know the numbers are going up. We know this is not just something that is affecting young people, but it is starting to spread across generations.”
On Monday, it was revealed that the seven local councils were writing to the government to ask for tougher restrictions to be imposed.
Newcastle public health director Prof Eugene Milne said last week that the worrying rise in infections was due to a combination of a “rising tide” of Covid-19 across communities and major outbreaks linked to events such as the charity football match at Burnside Working Men’s Club, on the border of Sunderland and County Durham.
In early August, the North East was reported to have the lowest rates of Covid-19 infections in the country.
However, case numbers have risen in recent weeks – which led to Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland and South Tyneside all being placed on the government’s coronavirus watchlist as areas needing "enhanced support" last Friday.
Figures published by the NHS showed that the virus is on the rise in all seven areas.
Sunderland has the highest number in the region of new cases per 100,000 people with 72.8 in the seven days to September 12.
South Tyneside was next with 69.9, then Gateshead on 68.1, Newcastle with 51, North Tyneside with 39.8, Durham with 34, and Northumberland on 21.9.
Bolton had by far the highest rate of infection in the country with 173.8 new cases.