Jack Brooke-Battersby
By Jack Brooke-Battersby

Senior Staff Writer

17 September 2020

| | 4 min read


Stronger measures introduced in North East to tackle rising infection rates

UPDATED 18 SEP - refreshed FAQs

Following further discussions with local leaders, the Health and Social Care Secretary, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), and the Chief Medical Officer for England have agreed to escalate the North East; Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham, to areas of national intervention.

New COVID-19 restrictions for our region
New COVID-19 restrictions for our region

From Friday 18th September, regulations will ban the following:

  • Residents must not socialise with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens
  • Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only
  • Late night restriction of operating hours will be introduced, with leisure and entertainment venues required to close between 10pm to 5am.

Residents are also advised to adhere to the following guidance to further reduce rates of infection:

  • Residents should not socialise with other people outside of their own households in all public venues.
  • Residents are advised to only use public transport for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work
  • Holidays should be taken within your own household or support bubble
  • Residents are advised against attending amateur and semi-professional sporting events as spectators.

Measures to protect those shielding are being developed for implementation in the affected areas.

Changes come as cases in the North East have risen to the second highest in the country, after the North West. This decision has been made in close collaboration with local leaders.

A set of Frequently Asked Questions about the restrictions is here and was updated on 18 September.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Cases of COVID-19 are rising and we could not afford to sit idly by. This is why council leaders in the region are working together to take action and we are grateful that the Government is allowing us to take the initiative and respond urgently.  

“We know we are asking a huge amount from residents and it will be challenging for all of us. But if we are to prevent this deadly virus getting out of hand, we simply must take immediate action. 

“Stricter rules on household mixing, care home visits, trips to pubs, restaurants and other premises will help tackle some of the main areas where we are seeing transmissions of the virus. Inevitably, this will be difficult for many businesses, but our commitment to you is that if you continue to work with us and operate in a COVID-secure way, we will endeavour to do what we can to support you. There are other changes as well, such as to sporting events and rules around face coverings.  

“Initially, there will be challenges around childcare with only registered providers permitted into people’s homes. Rest assured, we will be working hard to make changes to allow the many residents who rely on the support of family members to continue with their own informal arrangements. 

“I would urge everyone to follow these new restrictions at all times while maintaining the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ Public Health guidance. 

“Please do not visit other households outside your support bubble, please don’t visit friends and family outside the area where restrictions apply, and please adhere to the change to the hospitality trade and other sectors.  

“It will be tough but our best chance of succeeding and protecting life is to work together and do what is being asked of every single one of us.” 

Eugene Milner, Director of Public Health for Newcastle, discusses tighter restrictions introduced in North East to tackle rising COVID-19 infection rates

Tighter restrictions introduced in North East

Terry Collins, chair of the regional chief executive’s forum and Chief Executive of Durham County Council, said:  “It is incredibly important that we all work together if we are to prevent the further spread of coronavirus and reduce infection rates. 

“While there is much we can do as councils, it is also vital that everyone does their bit by following the latest public health guidelines, particularly with regard to handwashing, the wearing of face coverings and social distancing. 

“The past few months have been difficult for many and there are still challenging times ahead but we will continue to work together to do all we can to keep residents across the region safe.” 

Amanda Healey, Director of Public Health at Durham County Council, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly challenging for all of us and it will be tough to hear that these essential, stricter measures are being introduced. 

“This decision has not come about lightly but we must remain focused on protecting the health of all our residents. Our best hope of achieving this is to take a shared approach, to work with every community, resident and business in Tyneside, Wearside, Northumberland and County Durham to control any further outbreaks of the virus. This is at the heart of our decision making.  

“Each local authority is seeing a rise in cases and all have infection rates higher than 20 per 100,000. For some, it is much higher and we know that if we do not take action now, even stricter measures will be needed and imposed upon us, whereas if we move fast and work together we stand a chance of reducing and shortening this phase of the pandemic. 

“These new restrictions will help reduce transmissions in key settings, but only if we all follow them at all times in keeping with the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ Public Health guidance.” 

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “After seeing cases in the North East rise to a concerning level, local authorities requested support for tighter restrictions and we have taken swift action to accept their recommendations.

“We do not take these decisions lightly but I know the people of the North East will work together and break the chains of transmission. 

“I urge those from affected areas: please, get a test if you are symptomatic, stay at home if you are required to self-isolate, and think: hands, face, space. This is the only way for us to return to a more normal way of life and avoid further restrictions.”

These changes are in addition to the nationwide 6-person limit on social gatherings that came into force on Monday. This rule is in place across the country and will sit alongside additional restrictions in some local areas.

PHE, the JBC and NHS Test and Trace are constantly monitoring the levels of infection and other data on prevalence of the virus across the country. As has always been the case, measures are kept under constant review to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

Read here about new ‘Lighthouse’ laboratory to strengthen regional resilience in fight against COVID-19.