Coronavirus restrictions are being tightened across the North East in an effort to reduce the rate of infection.
The region is already subject to a number of local restrictions but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that these will be toughened further from Wednesday.
The step was taken after the number of coronavirus cases continued to rise in the North East and a major incident was declared in Newcastle.
Public health officials upped Newcastle’s Covid-19 alert system to the highest possible level. City council bosses say they are now in ‘red plus’ mode, with Newcastle now having one of the highest infection rates in the country.
So what restrictions are in place and what will change from Wednesday? Here, we have explained the current Government guidance:
What rules are in place in the North East at the moment?
Under the regulations that came into force on September 18, people were banned from socialising with others outside of their own households or support bubbles in private homes and gardens.
People were also advised not to socialise with anyone outside of their household in any public venue, such as pubs and restaurants.
People are only allowed to come inside your home for specific purposes, such as to provide emergency assistance.
In addition, the following must close from 10pm to 5am: pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, social clubs, cinemas, theatres, casinos, bingo halls, concert halls, amusement arcades, indoor leisure centres, funfairs, theme parks, and adventure parks and activities.
During opening hours, there should be table service only at food and drink venues. And it is now mandatory for venues to take details of customers for NHS Test and Trace.
Which areas do these rules cover?
The regulations are in place in Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham.
What will change from tomorrow?
So far, people have been advised not to mix with anyone outside their household, including in any public venues – but that was only guidance and not against the law.
That will now change. Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that there will be “legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting”.
The health secretary said: “Unfortunately the number of cases continues to rise sharply. The incident rate across the area is now over 100 cases per 100,000.
“We know that a large number of these infections are taking place in indoor settings outside the home. And so, at the request of the local councils with whom we have been working closely, we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting.”
This means that from Wednesday, September 30, people from different households will be banned under law from mixing indoors in any setting, including pubs or restaurants, and will face fines for breaking the rule.
What do the police say about enforcement of these rules?
At this stage, Northumbria Police have said: “We are aware of the announcement made by the Health Secretary in the House of Commons today (Monday) in relation to the tightening of localised restrictions to combat a rise in coronavirus cases.
“While we await details about the legislation behind the new rules, we would ask everyone continues to play their part in helping to prevent the spread of the virus. We all have a responsibility to keep each other safe.
“We would also ask people not to contact police to find out more details or whether a particular restriction applies to you. We understand further information will be announced in due course and will be posted on your local authority website. It is important our lines are kept clear so we can respond to emergencies.”
What about childcare?
The Government has confirmed that visits to other households for informal childcare, such as grandparents looking after children, will still be permitted under the revised rules “as long as they are consistent”.