Fears of a wild ‘last party’ weekend behind the decision to impose the northeast lockdown in hours

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The new northeast lockdown measures had to be imposed quickly to avoid a “last party atmosphere” this weekend. New restrictions prohibiting people from different homes from meeting and imposing a curfew in pubs were imposed on Friday.

But many people were frustrated and confused with the way they were announced, with details gradually being confirmed on Thursday – just hours before the rules went into effect.

Professor Eugene Milne, director of public health at Newcastle City Council, said the rapid rate at which the number of infections was increasing in parts of the region meant that it was probably “inevitable” that swift action would be needed. taken.

He said: “In an ideal world, we would have got everything sorted out in advance and we would have had real clarity on what was going to happen so that we could start all of our communication immediately.

“We are inevitably in the hands of the central government and because we were defending different elements and we did not get everything we asked for, although there were concessions on both sides on this matter, the speed at that this was to happen made things difficult.

“This is probably an inevitable consequence of the rapidity of the increase in covid in the city and its surroundings which we must have taken very quickly.

“I know it’s very difficult for people, but I would ask them to support us because we are really trying as much as possible to get as much consistency as possible in a very complicated situation.

New restrictions announced on Friday for parts of the Midlands, North West and Yorkshire will not take effect until Tuesday – giving people more time to understand the changes and make plans.

But fears of a wild weekend meant the Northeastern councils wanted restrictions here introduced as soon as possible.

The spread of the virus here has been in part linked to greater social diversity in or around pubs, bars and other premises.

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Professor Milne added: “The alternative would have been if the advice had arrived on Monday, it wouldn’t have given us much more time to do the communications and so on because the decision would probably have taken place on Friday morning.

“There is then a real danger that you will end up with a ‘last party’ atmosphere this weekend, which could be really problematic in terms of exacerbating the spread of the virus and lengthening the overall period in which we have to put measures in place.

“The judgment was that if we had to do it, it would be better to do it as quickly as possible.”

Under new regulations that came into effect on Friday, nearly two million people in Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham are prohibited from socializing with other people outside of their own households or to support bubbles in private homes. and gardens.

Reception venues are also limited to table service only and have a 10 p.m. curfew.

Residents were also advised not to socialize with people outside their homes in all public places, to use public transport only for essential travel, to only take vacations within their own homes. or the support bubble, and avoid sporting events as a spectator.

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