HUNDREDS of drinkers hit the town for a last boozy night out in Newcastle before a 10pm North East pub curfew.
Revellers flocked to city-centre bars before the region was hit by strict new rules as fears grow of a fresh national lockdown.
More than two million people in the North East of England will be affected by the new lockdown,Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed earlier.
It comes as Lancashire and Merseyside also face further lockdowns, with up to 10 million Brits now living under tighter restrictions.
The North East was hit with strict rules from midnight as cases of the virus rocketed to the second highest in the country.
And there are fears of a fresh surge, with 40,000 students due back to Newcastle University and another 20,000 to Durham University.
PUB SHUT DOWN
The ramped-up restrictions will apply to Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants will have to offer table service only, and they will have to shut by 10pm and can’t open again until 5pm.
And people will not be allowed to socialise with ANY friends and family outside of their own households either – inside or outside.
That includes public places like pubs and parks, but also inside private homes and gardens too.
Around 2,350 pubs and restaurants have been hit, according to real estate adviser Altus Group
Sean Southern from The Gateshead Arms told MailOnline: “Things seemed to be getting better and then all of a sudden we’re told last night that there’s going to be big changes and we haven’t really had time to prepare.
“People forget that closing at 10pm also has an impact on staff who might have wanted to pick up a few extra hours.”
Boris Johnson hasn’t ruled out another national shutdown – although with the increasing number of lightning lockdowns across many regions, much of the country is already living with enforced changes.
While all of England is now having to adhere to the “rule of six” – which limits gatherings to half a dozen people – some entire regions are living with or soon face harsher rules.
The rise in regional restrictions comes as scientists advising the Government want a two-week national lockdown next month to battle the surge in coronavirus, it is reported.
Experts suggested an October lockdown during half term before the virus “breaks the NHS”, The Financial Times reports.
And with Covid cases spiking alarmingly, testing chief Baroness Dido Harding enraged MPs by admitting officials did not expect demand to be so high.
NHS Test and Trace chief Lady Harding blamed scientists for not predicting that up to a million people a day would be demanding a check from a system with a capacity of just 250,000.
I don’t think anybody was expecting to see a really sizeable demand as we have over the course of the last few weeks.
She claimed “scared and worried” people were getting tested when they did not need to, also accusing a quarter of them of lying about their symptoms.
Lady Harding said: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see a really sizeable demand as we have over the course of the last few weeks.
“None of the modelling expected (that).”
The testing fiasco was exposed as swathes of the country were placed under extra restrictions.
Sky reports that tighter restrictions are also set to be imposed on Lancashire, excluding Blackpool, from Saturday.
The Lancashire lockdown will include Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Lancaster and Morecambe, the broadcaster claims.
Meanwhile, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has said he expects further restrictions to hit the North West this week.
The Liverpool Echo reports he said: “We know there will be government meetings to decide what happens next on Friday, but we fully expect to be affected by lockdown measures having gone over the 100 cases per 100,000 government threshold.
“We think this could well be part of a wider North West lockdown, because you can see cases are rising across the whole region.
“We may see pubs and restaurants reduced to takeaway services and restrictions on households mixing, we will have to wait and see exactly what measures are brought in and will keep people informed.”
Liverpool has seen soaring coronavirus rates, with 106.4 cases per 100,000 people.
There have been 530 new cases in the last seven days.
At the weekend Merseyside was put on the Government watch list of hotspots to keep an eye on.
Virtues of a curfew
CURFEWS helped reduce infection rates in Belgium.
In late July all public venues shut at 11pm, and citizens were told to stay at home from 11.30pm until 6am.
In mid-August, as rates fell, the curfew was eased to 1.30am to 5am.
Earlier closing times can stop people getting too drunk and too close to other revellers.
But sociologist Prof Robert Dingwall, at Nottingham Trent University, said people might start their night outs earlier.
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As demand for tests rise throughout the country it was not possible to book a slot in Liverpool, Wirral, Bury or Salford today, which are all areas within the top 20 highest infection rates in England.
London has seen a rise of case rates in at least 30 boroughs, according to recent data. The city as a whole has an infection rate of 490.2.
And as the infection rate in around 20 boroughs teeters at the Government’s threshold for bringing in restrictions, 500,000 students are set to arrive in the capital for university.
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