New Covid restrictions confirmed by the government are now in place in Tyneside, Wearside, Northumberland and County Durham.
The changes, which were imposed on Friday 18 September, come as cases in the North East have risen to the second-highest in the country, after the North West.
The measures apply to residents in Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle and County Durham.
The Government has offered clarity on the rules, which must be formally reviewed on a fortnightly basis.
Social contact restrictions
If you live in one of the affected areas, you must not:
Host people you do not live with in your home or garden, unless they’re in your support bubble
Meet people you do not live with in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected areas, unless they’re in your support bubble
What is a support bubble?
A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household (on an exclusive basis). Households within a bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.
What are the exceptions?
where everyone in the gathering lives together or is in the same support bubble
to attend a birth at the mother’s request
to visit a person who is dying
to fulfil a legal obligation
for work purposes (seek guidance) or for the provision of voluntary or charitable services
for the purposes of education or training
for the purposes of childcare provided by a registered provider or for the purposes of supervised activities provided for children
to provide emergency assistance
to enable one or more persons in the gathering to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
to facilitate a house move
to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children where the children do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents.
What about fines?
The police are able to take action against those that break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices starting at £100 for those who participate in illegal gatherings. People aged 18 or over can be fined:
£100 for the first offence, lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days
£200 for the second offence, then doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £3,200
The government has also introduced fines for those who hold illegal gatherings of over 30 people. Police may issue fines of £10,000 to those who break the law.
Further detail can be found in the official government guidance for meeting others safely, including associated exemptions.
The government says friends or family who do not live with you, must not visit your home to help with childcare unless they are part of your support bubble.
The guidance states that the only people who should help you with childcare in your home are people you live with, people in your support bubble, or registered childcare providers including nannies.
Children of parents who are separated can continue to move between households.
The seven local authorities who first wrote to the government, requesting the tighter measures on the region, have now written again to the Department of Health, requesting an amendment to the new restrictions. They have asked that families can continue with their previous childcare arrangements.
Going to work
People living inside and outside of the affected areas can continue to travel in and out for work. Workplaces should implement COVID-19 secure guidance.
The Government says you should follow all relevant transport guidance when making a journey into, within or out of the affected areas.
You are encouraged to walk or cycle where possible and to plan your journey in advance, avoiding busy times and routes if possible.
What is essential travel?
to get to and from work
to get essential food or medical supplies including click and collect services
to support someone who is vulnerable, if no one else can do so
to travel to and from the homes of others in your support bubble
to attend an early years setting, school or college, or to accompany a child who is attending an early years setting, school, college or university where necessary
to fulfil legal obligations
to seek medical care, or avoid illness, injury or harm
What about car sharing?
The government says you should not share a car with those outside your household or support bubble. If you need to, try to:
Share the car with the same people each time
Keep to small groups of people at any one time
Open windows for ventilation
Travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
Consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
Clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
Ask the driver and passengers to wear a mask
What about going on holiday?
The government states you can still go on holiday outside of the affected areas, but you should only do this with people you live with (or have formed a support bubble with).
There is separate guidance on what to do if you have booked holiday accommodation in an area with local restrictions.
Businesses and venues
The new rules state that hospitality venues must only sell food and drink for consumption on the premises if it is served to customers sitting at a table. They may also sell food and drink for consumption off the premises. Those venues include:
Restaurants, including hotel dining rooms and members’ clubs
Cafes (not including cafes or canteens at workplaces, hospitals, care homes, schools, prisons, establishments intended for the use of naval, military or air force purposes and for providing food or drink to the homeless)
Bars including bars in hotels or members’ clubs
The following businesses and venues must close from 10pm to 5am each day:
The hospitality businesses and venues listed above
Amusement arcades or other indoor leisure centres or facilities
Funfairs (indoors or outdoors), theme parks and adventure parks and activities
What about out of hours delivery service, between 10pm and 5am?
Businesses can still sell food and drinks through a website, or otherwise by online communication, by telephone, including orders by text message or by post.
The short answer is no, you do not need to shield. But the government says if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, they are not advising you shield but it is important that you continue to take precautions. Find out more from the general guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people.
Weddings and funerals
Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and receptions, funerals (including ceremonies at crematoriums) and other religious life-cycle ceremonies are exempt from the new rules.
Up to 30 people are allowed to attend these events, including in the affected areas.
People living outside of the affected areas can travel to those areas in order to attend the ceremonies but not meet in a house or garden afterwards.
Religious ceremonies and places of worship
You may attend a mosque, church, synagogue, temple or other place or worship, but you should socially distance from people outside of your household.
If possible, prayer or religious services should take place outdoors.
Sports and activities
You can continue to take part in organised sporting or licensed physical activity in groups of more than 6. This can be in any public place – indoors or outdoors – but not in a private outdoor space like a garden or inside a private home.
Organised dance and exercise classes can take place in groups of more than 6.
What does that mean?
These activities either need to be organised by a national governing body, club, registered instructor/coach, business or charity, and/or involve someone who has received an official licence to use equipment relevant to the activity.
What about spectating?
The government advises that you should not attend amateur or professional sporting events as a spectator in the areas affected. If you do attend, you must remain socially distanced and groups of no more than 6.
Can I still move house?
Yes. Estate and letting agents, and removals firms can continue to work and people looking to move home can continue to undertake viewings.
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