New restrictions for northeast England as virus cases surge

More than two million people in northeast England face new restrictions because of a surge in coronavirus cases, the government announced on Thursday, as it battled to contain a potential second wave of infection.

Tighter regulations on socialising are due to come into force from Friday in Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, and County Durham.

Residents will be banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people from outside their household, while food and drink venues will be restricted to table service only.

Pubs and bars will have to shut early by 10:00 pm (2100 GMT).

“We do not take these decisions lightly,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament, acknowledging they would have a “real impact on families, on businesses and on communities”.

But he added: “We must follow the data and act, and the data says that we must act now.”

Britain has been the worst-hit country in Europe by the pandemic, with the government registering nearly 42,000 deaths.

The government imposed new rules across England on Monday to limit socialising to groups of six people or fewer, as daily cases reach levels not seen since early May.

According to government statistics, a total of 18,371 people tested positive in England in the week to September 19 — up 75 percent on the previous week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to observe the new rules to “stop the second hump” in the pandemic, comparing Britain’s trajectory of resurgent cases to a camel’s profile.

He said it was “the only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas” and was an alternative to another full lockdown, which he has said would be financially disastrous. (AFP | Oli SCARFF with Joe JACKSON)