New restrictions on social contact between households and a 10pm curfew on pubs are expected to be introduced in parts of north-east England in an attempt to curb rising coronavirus cases.
Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle city council, confirmed that “additional, temporary restrictions” were being planned to prevent another full lockdown for the region.
Multiple sources confirmed that the restrictions, expected to be announced on Thursday morning, will include a 10pm curfew on pubs and bars and a ban on mixing between households.
They will come into effect from midnight on Thursday night/Friday morning.
The restrictions are expected to apply to Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland but not Teesside. They will cover an area of approximately 1.5 million people.
Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, confirmed the new measures when appearing on ITV’s Peston programme on Wednesday evening. He said: “The number of cases has been rising rapidly in many parts of the country but particularly in the north east and so a decision has been made to impose further restrictions there.
“A full announcement will be made tomorrow so people living in that part of the country should watch out for that and the measures come into play at midnight on Thursday evening. Over the course of the day a full briefing will be made available to the councils and the business community.”
It would be the first time the government has imposed strict measures on such a wide region since restrictions were introduced on Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Leicester on 31 July.
The move reflects growing concern in Whitehall at rising infections in the north-east of England, where South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland all have infection rates almost three times the average for England.
One Newcastle councillor said: “We’re set to get the toughest local lockdown so far up here. No socialising outside your household groups inside or out and a 10pm curfew.”
The restrictions, which were first reported by the Chronicle, emerged shortly after a meeting between the health minister Nadine Dorries and north-east MPs on Wednesday.
Sources said she was repeatedly pushed on increasing testing capacity for the area but they received no concrete reassurances.
One MP said they were extremely concerned about support for local businesses, which will need to shut by 10pm and will have customers restricted to one household.