North-east England In Tougher Lockdown As COVID-19 Cases Rise
Nearly 2 million people in the north east England regions of Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham are being put under stricter movement restrictions amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the decision, taken in consultation with local leaders, came as Sunderland showed a coronavirus infection rate of 103 cases per 100,000 people, while in South Tyneside Gateshead and Newcastle the figures are all above 70.
- Last Updated: September 17, 2020, 19:16 IST
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London: Nearly 2 million people in the north east England regions of Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham are being put under stricter movement restrictions amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the decision, taken in consultation with local leaders, came as Sunderland showed a coronavirus infection rate of 103 cases per 100,000 people, while in South Tyneside Gateshead and Newcastle the figures are all above 70.
The tougher lockdown measures for the region will involve a ban on public gatherings and mingling between different households. “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,” the minister said.
“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,” he said. Under the new rules which come in force from Friday, 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; and late night restriction of operating hours will be introduced, with leisure and entertainment venues required to remain closed between 10 pm to 5 am. Other curbs include no socialising with people outside households at all public venues; only to use public transport for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work; take holidays only within your own household or support bubble; and avoid attending amateur and semi-professional sporting events as spectators.
The localised changes are in addition to the UK-wide six-person limit on social gatherings, which came into force on Monday and can be enforced with a fine of 100 pounds for any breach. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the measures will be kept under “constant review” to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives. The move comes as the DHSC also announced action to tackle the laboratory response to a rapidly growing demand for coronavirus tests across the country.
Two new so-called Lighthouse Labs in Newcastle and Bracknell will join what the department branded as the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities created in British history to help scale up testing capacity ahead of winter. The UK government has faced criticism for its slow testing capacity, something it has pledged to rectify along with plans to ensure prioritising health professionals for quicker access to a free coronavirus test.
“We are working tirelessly to boost testing capacity so that everyone who needs a test can get one. Each day, around 200,000 people are successfully booking and taking tests and we are growing our capacity to 500,000 tests across the UK by the end of October, with more and more capacity being added each week,” said Baroness Dido Harding, the Interim Executive Chair of the newly-formed National Institute for Health Protection. “I cannot stress enough how important it is that only those with symptoms book tests. The service is there for those experiencing a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss or change in sense of taste or smell.
“If you don’t have symptoms but think, or have been told by NHS Test and Trace that you have been in contact with someone with the virus, please stay at home but do not book a test. We need everyone to help make sure that tests are there for people with symptoms who need them,” she said.
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