Sunderland councillors warn of local lockdown risk after pub closures

People in Sunderland have been warned that breaking infection control rules could lead to a local lockdown, after an “irresponsible” customer with coronavirus caused venue closures.

Three venues in Sunderland, Ryhope Cricket Club, on Ryhope Street, and the Golden Fleece Pub, in Silksworth, and The Cavalier, on Silksworth Road, have all temporarily closed, after managers learned a person with a confirmed case of coronavirus had visited.

A spokesperson for the Golden Fleece claimed on Facebook that “an irresponsible customer who was showing Covid symptoms while awaiting their test results decided to have a night out”, and the pub later learnt the person had tested positive for the virus.

At present, the Covid-19 infection rate in the city remains low, with just 1.1 cases per 100,000 people in the week to July 28, according to Public Health England data.

But local councillors have warned that irresponsible behaviour around settings like pubs could lead to local outbreaks.

Whilst pubs have now reopened, those with any possible symptoms of coronavirus, including a new continuous cough, high temperature, or loss of sense of smell, are ordered to self isolate and not enter public venues or shops.

On Thursday, areas in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester were placed under stricter lockdown measures by Government, but l ocal councils have also been handed powers to close shops, cancel events or shut public spaces if outbreaks are detected.

Sunderland Council leader Graeme Miller he would work with the council’s director of public health if any such outbreak were to be identified – it’s not yet known whether the cases at the three venues did lead to further infection – but said the council would “seriously consider” implementing local restrictions if they were needed.

He said: “We’ve been consistent in saying ‘stay home, stay safe, protect lives’. This is far too soon to be saying that Covid-19 has been dealt with, and if we have that sort of localised outbreak we will have to give it serious consideration.

“That is the only sensible thing to do if it genuinely becomes an issue, we must keep people safe.”

He slammed government advice, which he said had been “deliberately vague” throughout the pandemic, but said the majority of people in Sunderland had behaved responsibly since the start of lockdown – and urged them to continue keeping themselves and others safe.

He said that whilst over 300 people have been killed by the virus in Sunderland, the infection rate is now low and there have not been any new deaths recorded for some time.

“In Sunderland, people have got it, and thankfully the common sense and the goodwill is still there. At Sunderland Council we have done a good job given the resources that we have.

“But if we do have an outbreak in pubs we will have to look at it.”

Councillor Niall Hodson, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the city council, echoed the warning of the potential consequences of ignoring coronavirus restrictions, saying a small area could become a “point of infection” which might spread through a small local area.

He said: “That is exactly the sort of thing that is going to cause a local lockdown.

“It’s a matter of personal responsibility, more than anything the council or the police can do, it’s important that people realise that if they take risks they could cause a local lockdown in Sunderland.

“That would have serious implications not only for health but economically here, because there’s not going to be the sort of financial support that there has been during the last three or four months.

“It is worrying, and it’s down to individuals making sensible choices and not putting themselves or the community at risk.”

Chronicle Live – Sunderland