Seven councils in North East write to government asking for greater lockdown restrictions

Council leaders in the North East are writing to the Government calling for greater lockdown restrictions to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, says Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes.

Six parts of the North East are on the Government's official watchlist due to a rise in Covid cases.

Speaking to ITV News Tyne Tees on the day the "rule of six" became law, Nick Forbes says representatives from Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland made the "unanimous" decision to request measures, that are currently in place in other parts of England, brought to the region.

We're looking at a whole range of additional measures, particularly given where the virus we know is spreading, which is in pubs and contact in each others' homes. We will be asking people not to make unnecessary contact within people's homes. We're going to be asking people not to visit each other either inside or outside.

Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council leader

We are also going to ask for restrictions on pub opening times and restrictions, so that it's table service only in pubs and restaurants. All local authorities from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham, we are all in unanimous agreement that we need to do this now to protect our communities. I hope the government will act too and back us.

Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council leader

Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited the North East today (Monday 14 September) to visit NHS staff and discuss hospital funding. He visited hospitals in Shotley Bridge, Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Stockton.

Our Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick pressed the Health Secretary on the rising cases of coronavirus in North East, to which Matt Hanock said: "is very worrying".

We will be looking this week at the proposals put forward by the councils across the North East. We will make sure we make the right decisions and if we have to move fast, we will.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

Responding to the announcement from council leaders for more restrictions, Mr Hancock said the government will announce "further steps this week" but would not confirm if that meant local lockdowns.

Watch Tom Sheldrick's conversation with Health Secretary, Matt Hancock:

Which local authorities have written to the government?

Signing the letter are Newcastle City Council, Sunderland City Council, Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumberland County Council and South Tyneside Council.

What is the "rule of six"?

From Monday 14 September, gatherings of more than six people will be illegal, as Boris Johnson announced in his recent Downing Street press conference.

  • The rules will apply across England to all ages and in any setting either indoors and outdoors, at home or a pub

  • A single household or support bubble that is larger than six will still be able to gather

  • Covid-secure venues like places of worship, gyms, restaurants and hospitality settings can still hold more than six in total

  • Education and work settings are not affected by the new rules

Weddings and funerals can still go ahead with a limit of 30 people if conducted in a Covid-secure way.

According to new data from Public Health England, people aged between 20 and 29 are the age group with the biggest rate of coronavirus cases in England, with more people in their twenties infected in the North East and North West compared to the rest of the country.

The data, released on Friday 11 September, shows that the infection rate among 20 to 29 year olds in the North East more than doubled last week, compared to the previous seven days.

The statistics cover last week - 31 August to 6 September - when coronavirus cases hit a four-month high.

Last week, Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead were among some councils telling care homes that they should also now close their doors as a precaution, writing: “Due to the increase in infection rates we are now asking that homes temporarily suspend non-essential visits to support infection prevention and control”.