Local lockdown restrictions will be imposed on the North East from midnight on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.
In an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus, around two million people of the North East will be banned from meeting with anyone from another household, while hospitality businesses will have to close their doors at 10pm.
The restrictions kick in on September 18 and will be reviewed weekly.
Meanwhile, 21 more people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the country’s death toll to 41,705. There were also 3,395 new cases confirmed on Thursday.
Here is a round-up of today’s coronavirus headlines:
All of the new rules coming into force from midnight
The Government has confirmed that the North East will be hit with a series of new lockdown-style restrictions to cope with a rising number of Covid-19 cases.
The new rules will come into force on Friday and will cover Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham.
It will mean big changes for who you are allowed to meet up with and how pubs and restaurants are allowed to operate.
We reveal the new guidelines and answer your questions here
What happens if restrictions are broken?
People who break the new lockdown-style restrictions in the North East could face fines that could run into hundreds of pounds for repeat offenders.
The new rules, which come into force on Friday, include a ban on people meeting with others outside their own households or support bubbles in private homes and gardens, unless for specific purposes included on an exemption list.
But how will these restrictions be policed and what will happen to anyone who flouts them?
Local authorities say that where people are breaking the rules, they will “seek to engage, explain and encourage them to adhere to the restrictions”. However, enforcement action will be taken where appropriate.
Reaction to tighter restrictions as new rules branded ‘a joke’
People in the North East have slammed the Government’s decision to impose tighter restrictions in parts of the region.
From midnight, people living in Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham will follow a set of stricter guidelines after a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases.
But people in the region have branded the rules as “contradictory”, “unclear” and “ridiculous”.
What do you think of the restrictions? Let us know by taking our short survey
South Tyneside has one of country’s sharpest rises in Covid-19 rate
South Tyneside has recorded one of the sharpest increases in new Covid-19 cases as the latest weekly rates have been released.
The figures, for the seven days to September 14, is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.
Unsurprisingly, as the Government announced new Covid-19 restrictions due to a rise in cases in the region, nearly all North East areas have seen an increase over the seven-day period.
South Tyneside was one of the areas with the sharpest increases nationally, after going from from a rate of 60.9 to 93.4 per 100,000 people, with 141 new cases.
The rate of infection increased by 20 in Gateshead, and 10 in Newcastle.
Sunderland was the only area in the North East to see a drop in its rate of infections, but still had the highest number of new cases in the region (209).
We have the full North East infection rate list.
MPs ask for childcare exemption to North East rules
North East MPs questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the region’s local lockdown measures after he spoke in the House of Commons.
Two MPs urged him to ensure families were still able to invite friends or relatives into their homes to provide childcare. Mr Hancock said he would consider it, but also said he was worried about the prospect of passing Covid-19 on to grandparents.
Blaydon MP Liz Twist was one of the MPs to quiz Mr Hancock after he confirmed that lockdown measures would be imposed.
She warned that some parents relied on informal childcare in order to work, asking: “Will the government please give some extra thought to easing the restrictions on informal childcare?”
Bar owner brands new measures a ‘nightmare’
A Newcastle bar owner fears the new lockdown is another enormous blow for businesses and says they are being forced to suffer for a problem not of their making.
Paul Pringle, who owns the popular Intermezzo, Alvinos and Tokyo bars in the city centre, spoke out immediately on hearing news of the local lockdown confirmed on Thursday.
The restrictions, including a 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector, affect Newcastle, Gateshead, Tyneside, Northumberland, Sunderland and County Durham, come into effect at midnight on Thursday.
He said: “The new local lockdown is a nightmare for businesses like mine – most of the business in my bars is after 10pm.”
Final gigs at socially distanced music festival cancelled
The final Virgin Money Unity Arena gigs have been cancelled due to the new coronavirus restrictions.
Around two million people in the North East are unable to mingle with family and friends due to tough new rules aimed at stopping the growing number of Covid-19 cases in the region.
However the final shows this weekend, featuring acts including Jack Savoretti and the Kaiser Chiefs, have now been pulled.
It means Thursday’s show, headlined by dance act Chase & Status, will be the final gig of the summer at the arena, dubbed the world’s first socially distanced music venue.
Latest advice on using public transport
After months of relative normality, public transport guidelines are now similar to what we experienced during the full lockdown earlier this year.
New guidance, on Northumberland County Council’s websites, states people “are advised to only use public transport for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work”.
It won’t be much of a surprise that – unless you have a legitimate reason – face masks are still mandatory.
You are also advised not to share a car with those outside your household or support bubble, and to use public transport for essential journeys instead.