PEOPLE living in the North East will be fined for mixing between households in houses, pubs or any other setting, Matt Hancock confirmed today.
Council leaders in the North East wanted tougher legal measures to prevent households mixing which is barred under regional Covid rules.
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Affected local areas
Durham (County Council area)
Gateshead (Metropolitan Borough Council area)
Newcastle (City Council area)
Northumberland (County Council area)
North Tyneside (Metropolitan District Council area)
South Tyneside (Metropolitan District Council area)
Sunderland (City Council area)
As The Sun revealed today, it means mean popping round for a cuppa in a lockdown area will result in a fine, or criminal record.
And going to the pub for a pint with a pal will also result in a fine, if caught.
The new laws will come into force from 00.01 on Wednesday, but they won’t affect schools or offices if they are covid-secure.
It comes as cases in the region rose over 100 per 100,000, the Health Secretary revealed earlier today.
Mr Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons today: “The number of cases continues to rise sharply.
“We know a large number of these infections are taking pace in indoor settings outside the home.
“At the request at local councils we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting.
“We do not take these steps lightly but we must take them and take them now because we know that swift action is more likely to bring the virus under control and the quicker we can get this virus under control, the quicker we can restore the freedoms we all enjoy in the north-east and across the country.”
Leaders in the North East were expecting the new measures to come in at the end of last week, after days of “messy talks” with local leaders.
They had wanted tougher enforcement measures in place after a series of rogue landlords told punters that the rules were only guidance and cops could do nothing about households mixing – which is banned under the regional covid rules.
The regional rules, which came into place on September 18, banned people from meeting up in ANY setting – including pubs and restaurants, with people they did not live with.
Whitehall officials were understood to give locals “a few more days” to get used to the new rules coming into force today which sees breaches of the rule of six punished by £200, and breaking self-isolation punishable by up to £10,000.
A Whitehall source said yesterday of the possibility of new laws banning household mixing: “It is currently covered by guidance. That is under discussion.”
One official in Newcastle said: “There have been some real liberties taken over the guidance.
“We’ve had some frank discussions and tougher measures could be coming in the next few days.”
Discussions are continuing with local leaders in Merseyside to establish whether additional measures may be necessary there too.
Childcare bubbles will be able to form in local lockdown areas to allow families to share caring responsibilities with another household, as long as they are consistent.
People in support bubbles in these areas can also continue to meet in any setting, too.
A funding package to tackle rising infection rates in these areas and support the latest measures is also being hammered out.
Meanwhile, from today people in England testing positive, or contacted by NHS Test and Trace, must self-isolate by law.
Those on benefits will be paid £500 to stay at home, with fines will also be introduced from today for those breaching self-isolation rules.
They start at £1,000 and can go up to £10,000 and be even handed to bosses who force self-isolating staff to come into work.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Anyone can catch coronavirus and anyone can spread it. We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down and protecting our loved ones.
“As cases rise it is imperative we take action, and we are introducing a legal duty to self-isolate when told to do so, with fines for breaches and a new £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who can’t work from home while they are self-isolating.
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “These new measures are about saving lives. Everyone must take personal responsibility and self-isolate if they test positive or if told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
“For those who fail to do so, the police will enforce the law.”
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It comes as Tory MPs are set to lead a rebellion on covid laws in the Commons this week as – they demand a vote before more laws are introduced.
Tory MP Steve Baker told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “MPs should be sharing in the dreadful burden of decision in these circumstances and not just retrospectively being asked to approve what the Government has done…
“How do people think that liberty dies? It dies like this with Government exercising draconian powers, without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no-one can understand.”
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