Concerns raised at 'low rate' Berwick being 'lumped in' with rest of North East as tighter Covid restrictions imposed

Berwick leaders have questioned why tighter coronavirus restrictions are being imposed on the whole of Northumberland.

Stephen Scott, chairman of Berwick Chamber of Trade said: "The local lockdown restrictions are designed to curb the worrying growth of infections on Tyneside, Wearside and in south Northumberland.

"The current recorded infection rate in north Northumberland is very low, so to apply the new restrictions across the whole of Northumberland is wholly disproportionate and misguided.

Berwick during the lockdown in March.

“Northumberland County Council's refusal or inability to divide the county and to manage the risk where it is needed will have unnecessary negative consequences for Berwick and north Northumberland.

"Our area is highly dependent on tourism for its economy and the tourism sector in North Northumberland has recovered well after the lockdown.

"However, the new restrictions are bound to have a negative impact on the number of visitors looking for an autumn break in the area, as visitors will have been given an incorrect perception that north Northumberland has a high infection rate, which is not the case.

“Something is fundamentally wrong with the local lockdown arrangements when Berwick is impacted by a rising infection rate over 60 miles away.”

Cllr Georgina Hill, Berwick East.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, making the announcement, said Sunderland currently had an infection rate of 103 cases per 100,000 people, while in South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle the figures are all above 70.

The changes include a ban on socialising between households, indoors or outdoors.

Pubs and restaurants will also have to close at 10pm.

But Cllr Georgina Hill, member for Berwick East on Northumberland County Council, said: “Many residents in low rate, Berwick are, rightly, asking why we have been lumped in to the rest of the North East which is a large and diverse geographical area. The situation in Berwick is very different to what it is in Tyneside, for example.

Stephen Scott, Berwick Chamber of Trade.

“I share the growing despair at government policy. There are issues with the rationality around the ‘rule of six’ and I would also question how much of a difference closing pubs an hour earlier will make.

“All in all, the situation is very different to what it was in March when we did not know what sort of biblical level crisis we were facing.

“In light of the fact that more people are now dying of flu and pneumonia and in the absence of any vaccine or cure on the horizon, the question has to be how much more damage to the economy and our local businesses can we tolerate?

“While mitigating risk and not being reckless, we simply can’t put normal life on hold indefinitely.”

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “These measures to restrict the mixing of households have been brought in because case numbers in Northumberland are rising fast and it is vital we get those numbers down to protect our most vulnerable.

"The Minister has been clear that MPs are able to make the case for certain areas to be removed from the restrictions where appropriate and I will be reviewing figures daily so I can push for that once we see a decline in cases."

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