LONDON (Reuters) – The British government tightened restrictions on socialising in parts of northeast England on Monday, in response to high and increasing COVID-19 infection rates in the region.
From Wednesday, residents in seven areas including urban centres such as Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and Durham will be barred from socialising indoors with people from outside their household or strictly defined social bubble.
The restrictions will apply in homes, pubs and restaurants, and people who fail to comply will face fines enforceable by law, the health ministry said in a statement.
Coronavirus incidence rates were above 100 per 100,000 in six of the seven areas last week, the ministry said.
“Unfortunately, the number of cases continues to rise sharply,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, announcing the new restrictions to parliament.
“We know that a large number of these infections are taking place in indoor settings outside the home. And so, at the request of the local councils, with whom we’ve been working closely, we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting.”
Schools and workplaces will not be affected by the restrictions.
Large swathes of the United Kingdom and millions of citizens are subject to local restrictions brought in to try to slow a second wave of COVID-19 infections. The country has the highest death toll from the virus in Europe, at 42,000.
Northeast and northwest England have been badly hit. Greater Manchester, the main urban centre in the northwest, is also subject to local measures, as are the major cities of Glasgow in Scotland and Cardiff in Wales.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Estelle Shirbon, editing by William James)