Yesterday I joined a zoom meeting with the Health Minister Nadine Dorries and Professor Peter Kelly, Director of Public Health for the North East, to discuss new measures which will come into force in our region at midnight tonight.
The measures have been brought in because covid-19 cases in some areas of the north east are now very high, especially in Sunderland and Newcastle. Although the rates in Northumberland are very much lower, they are rising fast so the decision has been taken to include our county in the measures in the hope that we can reverse that trend quickly.
I will be reviewing figures on a ward level and making the case for wards or areas to be removed from the restricted area as soon as possible. I do not want to see these restrictions in place any longer than is necessary and I will be pushing for them to be lifted as soon as case numbers start to decline once more.
The measures being brought do not constitute a “lockdown”. People will continue to be able to go to work, school, restaurants and cafes and go on holiday. However, there will be tighter restrictions on mixing between households.
- There will be no mixing of households allowed, indoors or outdoors. If you have a support bubble (where one person living alone is added to your household) or children under shared custody agreements, those arrangements remain unaffected;
- There will be restrictions on the “night time economy”. Bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes, bowling alleys, cinemas, and nightclubs will have to close between 10pm and 5am;
- The existing guidance that restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars should offer table service only, will now become a hard and fast rule;
- Only essential visits to care homes and hospitals will be allowed;
- People should not go on holiday with people from other households.
I do appreciate these restrictions will cause frustration and disappointment to many, especially as our part of Northumberland has low Covid-19 infection rates, however, I have every faith in the people of our county to pull together to follow these new restrictions and get these infections under control.
New testing facilities are being established across the county - please do apply for a test if you have a coronavirus symptoms (fever, new continuous cough, or loss of taste/smell). You can do that HERE.
Please also remember the basics of regular hand washing, wearing a face covering when in enclosed public spaces, and keeping a safe distance from others.
Below are some answers to the questions I am receiving. I will continue to update these:
Can I still go to work?
Yes, your workplace will be covid-secure. You can still go to work.
Can my children still attend school and nursery?
Can I still go on holiday?
Yes, you can go on holiday but only with your own household/support bubble.
Can grandparents offer childcare support?
Only if it is a single grandparent who is already part of your support bubble. Otherwise it involves a mixing of more than one household. Before today’s announcement that was only allowed with social distancing, which is very difficult to achieve for childcare.
Does the rule of 6 apply?
No, while these new restrictions are in place, you can only socialise within your own household or support bubble.
I run a holiday business within the restricted area, can I still welcome guests?
Yes, just keep following the original Government guidance on how to do so in a covid-secure way.
Can I still go to the pub?
Yes, but only with your own household and it must be strictly table-service only, as per the original Government guidelines published in the summer. Pubs will need to close by 10pm.
Rates of Covid-19 are lower in Northumberland than the rest of the north east, why do these restrictions apply to us?
Rates in Northumberland are rising very fast especially as residents of Northumberland often work and socialise across other parts of the north east. It is hoped that by being included in the restricted area, the rates here will swiftly fall once more and we can be removed from the area relatively quickly. I will be checking the figures on a ward by ward basis to make the case for areas to be removed from these restrictions once cases start to fall.
Can I still go to the shops, or hair salons?
Yes, these venues are already covid-19 secure.