Stricter local lockdowns could be enforced in the worst-hit areas in the North of England.
The tougher measures could see a two-week closure of restaurants, bars and pubs as coronavirus infection rates continue to soar in Newcastle, which has been branded the UK’s new Covid hotspot.
Despite some 800 students self-isolating with coronavirus at the city’s Northumbria University, young people were pictured out in big groups of over six people with little social distancing over the weekend.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said no decision had been made about further restrictions in the North but confirmed officials are discussing whether tighter rules need to be introduced in Merseyside and Liverpool.
Leaders are looking at possible new rules for pubs and restaurants limiting customers to those who have pre-booked only, the Mirror reported.
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But Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson said he is not expecting a full travel ban in the area.
There is already an existing ban on different households mixing in pubs but that guidance could be changed to criminal law.
Mr Eustice told the BBC: ‘It’s not really possible for me to say what they may or may not do since I think there’s currently dialogue between health officials and the local council there.
‘My understanding is a decision hasn’t been made, but I am aware that discussions have been taking place about what further restrictions might be needed, I think particularly around Merseyside and Liverpool.’
In Liverpool there were 239 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to September 29, up by 51%, and in Merseyside’s Sefton there were 167 cases per 100,000 in the same period, up by 64%.
During the same period there were 250 cases per 100,000 people in Newcastle, which is a 60% rise.
Staff at Northumbria University are reportedly fearful about getting infected and are threatening to strike over having to ‘choose between their health and their work’.
The University and College Union said the university should not have opened its campus and caused a ‘preventable public health crisis’ that is playing out because of ‘the direction of the infection rate and the problems with test and trace’.
A ‘significant majority’ have to vote for industrial action for a strike to take place.
Students are self-isolating for 14 days with their new flatmates while the city council helps to provide them with food, laundry, cleaning materials and welfare.
Northumbria University said: ‘The increase in numbers comes in the week after students returned to university and reflects the good access to and availability of testing, as well as rigorous and robust reporting systems.
‘In parts of the UK where universities started term earlier, numbers of student cases surged in induction week, and then reduced.
‘We are making it clear to students that if they break the rules they will be subject to fines from police and disciplinary action by the universities which may include fines, final warnings or expulsion.’
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