Covid-19: North East put into tier 3 after lockdown

Media caption,
Health Secretary Matt Hancock sets out England's new coronavirus tier system

The North East will face the toughest Covid-19 restrictions when the national lockdown ends, it has been confirmed.

All 12 council areas across the region will be placed under tier three from 2 December.

Residents will still be banned from socialising indoors with people they do not live with, apart from support bubbles.

Pubs and restaurants will remain closed except for delivery and takeaway.

The government has set out the reasoning behind the tier decisions for each area in a written ministerial statement.

'Financially horrendous'

The news, while not unexpected, will come as a blow to the region's hospitality industry.

Helen Greer, landlady of The Feathers Inn pub in Stocksfield, Northumberland, had to adapt during the second lockdown by offering takeaways and also opened a Christmas shop to keep her business going.

"It's just exhausting, it's exhausting mentally, it's exhausting physically," she said.

Image caption,
Helen Greer said the situation has been mentally and physically "exhausting"

She added that being placed in tier three long-term would be "financially horrendous" and tier two would be a "non-viable" model.

"Tier three is going to be hard because it means we have to continue doing the takeaway and that's not easy because we are a rural pub, we are long way from big centres of people, so it's difficult."

Hotels in tier three will also have to close.

Bed and breakfast owner Claire Shield, who only opened her business this year in Newton-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, said it was the "not knowing" that was difficult.

"I was on a bit of a high yesterday, briefly, and then when tier three was announced again today it was back down again. Even though it was expected it was just actually hearing it, and thinking 'ok, here we go again'."

South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck told the Commons hospitality in the town was going to be "absolutely battered".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, urged her to work with local authorities to "embrace" community testing, in order to help the North East out of tier three.

The government has released a list of the restrictions each tier area will face, although shops, hairdressers and gyms will be allowed to reopen.

Some rules will be relaxed at Christmas to allow three households to form a bubble.

North East areas affected:

  • Hartlepool
  • Middlesbrough
  • Stockton
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Darlington
  • Sunderland
  • South Tyneside
  • Gateshead
  • Newcastle
  • North Tyneside
  • County Durham
  • Northumberland

Other areas of England, including Cumbria, have been put into tier two, while just three areas will be in the lowest level of restrictions.

Labour Chief Whip and Newcastle East MP Nick Brown has written to Mr Hancock to ask why Newcastle had been put in tier three, despite it having a lower infection rate than Havering in London, which will be tier two.

Martin Gannon, leader of Labour-controlled Gateshead Council, said councils had "simply been told" what was happening and there had been no negotiation.

Covid infection rates across the region have been falling over the past week, according to government figures.

Conservative Stockton South MP Matt Vickers tweeted that while he was not surprised the area had been placed in tier three due to the number of cases, it was "bitterly disappointing".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Mr Hancock thanked people for the "hard work and sacrifice" which allowed England to move out of a national lockdown.

"I know for those of you faced with tier three restrictions this will be a particularly difficult time but I want to reassure you that we'll be supporting your areas with mass community testing and extra funding," he said.

Christmas shopping

Tier allocations will be reviewed on 16 December, allowing for "the possibility of areas which continue to make progress in slowing the spread of the disease" to be moved down a tier before Christmas, the government said.

Media caption,
Laura Foster explains the new three tier system for England

Unlike some parts of England, spectators will not be allowed back into football stadiums or to other large events.

Residents will still be banned from socialising indoors with anyone outside their household or social bubble, although people will be allowed to meet in groups of up to six in outdoor public spaces, and non-essential shops will reopen.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council's leader Mary Lanigan, an Independent, acknowledged that the local infection rate had "been too high".

"The ongoing restrictions put a huge strain on people's lives and threaten the prosperity of our borough as businesses cannot trade freely or plan with any confidence for the future," she said.

In a joint statement, local authority leaders across Tyneside, Wearside and Northumberland reminded residents that infection rates remained high, particularly as shops prepare to reopen.

However they said that despite the region being put into tier three, the national lockdown did not count for nothing, as rates did fall.

"The reopening of shops and retail outlets is certainly welcome but we know this will result in busy town and city centres as people head out for their Christmas shopping," they said.

"It is important that we support local independent businesses and if you head to the larger, busier outlets please follow the guidance and stick to hands, face, space at all times."

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