Health Secretary announces ban on households mixing indoors in north east

28 September 2020, 16:11 | Updated: 28 September 2020, 18:42

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement on Monday
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement on Monday. Picture: Parliament TV

By Megan White

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has introduced legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting in the north east.

He announced the new measures on Monday as the number of cases in some places soared above 100 per 100,000 people.

The restriction will apply to the areas placed under a local lockdown two weeks ago - Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham.

The measures will come into force from midnight on Wednesday and will be enforceable with fines, the Department for Health and Social Care said.

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But Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes criticised the Health Secretary for the manner in which the announcement on the latest Covid-19 measures was made, claiming it was announced without the local authority's knowledge.

A quarter of Britain's population is now living under a local lockdown, including most of south Wales and huge parts of the north.

The Health Secretary told the Commons: "Today I must announce further measures for the parts of the north-east where we introduced local action a fortnight ago.

"Unfortunately the number of cases continues to rise sharply. The incident rate across the area is now over 100 cases per 100,000. We know that a large number of these infections are taking place in indoor settings outside the home.

"And so at the request of the local councils, with whom we have been working closely, we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting.

"We do not take these steps lightly but we must take them and take them now because we know that swift action is more likely to bring the virus under control and the quicker we can get this virus under control, the quicker we can restore the freedoms we all enjoy in the north-east and across the country."

Criticising the way the changes were announced, Mr Forbes said: "While we have been in discussions with the Government on potential further restrictions, the Secretary of State has once again stood up and announced changes without telling us he was about to do so.

"We want to work constructively with the Government but the way these measures are being communicated in headlines and without detail does nothing for public confidence.

"We have demanded clarity on the new restrictions, testing and support for those businesses most affected."

Knowsley, in Merseyside, currently has the highest weekly rate of new cases of Covid-19 in England, new data shows.

A total of 422 cases were recorded in Knowsley in the seven days to September 25 - the equivalent of 279.7 cases per 100,000, up sharply from 152.5 in the previous week (the seven days to September 18).

Burnley has the second highest rate, up sharply from 157.4 to 269.9 with 240 new cases.

Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has jumped from 165.4 to 262.2 with 1,306 new cases.

Newcastle upon Tyne has seen the number of cases per 100,000 people rise in the last week from 111.6 to 238.1, with 721 new cases.

All figures are based on Public Health England data published on Monday.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 4,044 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, taking the overall number of cases confirmed to 439,013.

The Government also said a further 13 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday.

This brings the UK total to 42,001.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been 57,600 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Mr Hancock also signalled that concessions could be made to allow Parliament a greater say over future coronavirus restrictions after more than 50 Tories signalled they were prepared to rebel.

In total, 52 Conservative MPs have signed Sir Graham Brady's amendment to the Coronavirus Act, demanding that "Parliament has an opportunity to debate and to vote upon any secondary legislation with effect in the whole of England or the whole United Kingdom before it comes into effect".

The numbers mean if the amendment is selected by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and all those who have put their name to the terms then vote in favour of it, they could overturn the Government's majority.

Mr Hancock on Monday agreed to meet with Sir Graham, chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, to discuss his concerns in a bid to stave off a potential defeat.

The Tory rebels are joined by four Labour MPs, two DUP representatives and independent Dr Julian Lewis.