North East Labour MPs demand clarification on new Covid restrictions

Grant Boone
September 18, 2020

15 Labour MPs representing constituencies in the North East of England have written to the Health Secretary to seek urgent clarification on new Covid restrictions announced in the region.

"It is better to try to introduce measures which will prevent that, even though that may mean some additional restrictions over the next few weeks".

The rules will be enforced in Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland.

Pubs and restaurants must shut early and household-mixing has been limited.

"A full announcement will be made tomorrow and so people living in that part of the country should watch out for that".

The news of the restrictions immediately raises questions for other regions: in the northwest, Liverpool and neighbouring Warrington both have infection rates higher than numerous seven northeast council areas included in the new restrictions, suggesting they too may face further measures.

But he added: "The data says we must act now".

Almost two million people in the northeast of the country are facing fresh restrictions as coronavirus cases in the region increase.

"And in South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle, the figures are all above 70".

Mr Forbes added that Newcastle City Council had asked for an exemption on informal childcare arrangements with extended family members.

Two million people in North East England hit with new coronavirus restrictions

In Sunderland, drivers queued outside a Covid test centre, only to later find out it was empty.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs there had been "concerning" rates of infection in this region and said "the battle against coronavirus is still not over".

There remains confusion over some of the measures.

Council leaders have also requested additional funding for policing, as well as extra testing facilities.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth echoed the need for more testing capacity to be available in areas where there were tightened restrictions.

"In return, the government was supposed to deliver effective testing and tracing".

County Durham's director of public health Amanda Healy said: "If we do want to be able to continue to go to work, to schools, to keep in contact with relatives but stop an increase in the cases we have seen, we are really urging people to adhere to the guidance coming out today".

"And I know that the people of the North East will come together to beat this virus, as defeat it we must".

The new measures are expected to include a ban on care home visits for all but "essential visitors" - the first such measure since the UK-wide lockdown in spring.

New laws prohibiting social gatherings of more than six people came into effect on Monday as the government called on the public to remain vigilant during the coronavirus pandemic.

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