Cases of Covid-19 in the North East are the second highest in the country, after the North West, and promoted local leaders to escalate parts of the region to areas of intervention and new legislation was brought in to allow police to issue fines for breaches.
Local lockdown rules apply to Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.
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Since then, a rise in the number of cases nationwide have seen similar rules implemented in the rest of the UK – but there are still some differences.
Here are all of your questions answered regarding the UK restrictions and those specific to the North East.
What are the rules in the North East?
As of September 18, the following rules apply in the affected areas:
- Residents must not socialise with people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens
- Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only
- Late night restriction of operating hours will be introduced, with leisure and entertainment venues required to close between 10pm to 5am.
What happens if you break these rules?
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. Holding or being involved in the holding of an illegal gathering of more than 30 people is an offence, and police may issue fines of £10,000 to those who break the law.
What is the guidance on social contact in the North East?
- The Government has advised against, although it is not against the law, for people socialising with others – who they do not live with or in a support bubble with – at a public venue. These include places such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, community centres, place of worship, entertainment venues or visitor attractions.
- Friends and family are advised not to visit care homes other than in exceptional circumstances.
- Government guidance states that public transport should only be used for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work.
- People who live in the affected areas can still go on holiday, but this must only be with people who live in their own household, or are in their support bubble.
What about the rules in the rest of England (including the North East)?
- Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must wear face coverings as of September 23.
- Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. Staff in hospitality and retail are also required to wear face coverings from September 24.
- Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will became law on September 24.
- Anyone who can work from home should work from home over the winter, new guidance states.
- Entertainment and leisure venues must close from 10pm to 5am other than for takeaway and must use table service only. The new rules issued on September 24 are in line with the rules already implemented in the North East.
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions will be restricted to a maximum of 15 people (down from 30). While other significant standalone life events will be subject to the ‘rule of six’ limits, except funerals from 28 September.
Further questions about North East restrictions:
Do those classed as “extremely high risk” or vulnerable need to go back to shielding?
The government has not advised that people who are considered highly vulnerable to coronavirus should go back to shielding.
The official advice only states that people should not meet with anyone outside of their household or support bubble.
What is the situation with childcare?
Friends or family, such as grandparents, who do not live in your household can now visit your home to help with childcare following a Government U-turn.
Children of parents who are separated can continue to move between households.
Parents can also continue to use early years and childcare settings, including childminders and providers offering before- or after-school clubs, or other out-of-school settings, for children.
Can grass-roots sports events, training sessions and gym classes still go ahead?
Only team sports that are formally organised by a sports club, or similar organisation, and sports-governing body guidance has been issued, are permitted.
Individual sports can be played, but should follow government guidance on outdoor sport and recreation. Going to the gym, gym classes and swimming pools is also still allowed providing these venues have Covid-secure guidelines in place.
It is advised that all other sports activities should not take place with people who you do not live with, at both indoor and outdoor public venues.
How long are these restrictions likely to last?
Local lockdowns are under constant weekly reviews, with the government monitoring the rate of infections.
There is no set level of infection that triggers a local lockdown, but areas with more than 40 cases per 100,000 people are likely to see extra restrictions considered.
Several areas in the North East are currently well above this level, with rates in Sunderland at 153.0 as of 25 September, while South Tyneside was at 205.3, Gateshead at 138.6 and Newcastle at 193.2.
These infection rates must fall to a safer level before restrictions can start to be eased again.