Health Secretary Matt Hancock is facing MPs’ anger over coronavirus testing failings as he confirms new lockdown restrictions for northeast England.
In a Commons statement, he will announce a ban in the region on socialising with people from different households, a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and curbs on travel.
But MPs in the North East, 22 of whom were briefed on the clampdown by Health Minister Nadine Dorries, claim a shortage of testing in the region is to blame for the new restrictions.
New lockdown measures expected to be announced in parts of North East England tomorrow including a 10pm curfew for pubs, restaurants and other licensed venues and banning people from socialising with anyone outside their household https://t.co/8MyLMlppug— Enterprise Nation (@e_nation) September 16, 2020
Other restrictions for northeast England are likely to include people being told not to travel on holiday with other households and sports fans being advised not to attend games.
It is also likely that only essential visitors will be able to visit care homes and, except for essential journeys, public transport use and car-sharing will be discouraged at peak times.
Ahead of Mr Hancock’s statement, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes tweeted on Wednesday: “Some additional, temporary restrictions are being planned to prevent another full lockdown.
“We are awaiting confirmation from government on the final version of the regulations; I am expecting an announcement by the health secretary at 11am tomorrow.”
The North East clampdown comes as the Welsh government puts Rhondda Cynon Taf in South Wales under local lockdown from 6 pm after tighter measures were introduced in Birmingham and the West Midlands earlier this week
And in Bolton, the town with the worst infection rate in the UK, officials say the prime minister should have seen the increase in demand for tests coming.
Here comes national lockdown 2! North East England faces Covid curfew on FRIDAY— Jon Gaunt (@jongaunt) September 16, 2020
“It’s a really worrying time and we really ought to have predicted that this would be a time where there would be a surge,” the town’s public health director Donna Hall told Sky News.
“For me, it isn’t an issue of demand, it’s an issue of the supply and the management of the system.”
The head of the government’s testing system, Tory peer Baroness Harding, will face tough questions about testing on Thursday from the all-party science and technology committee of MPs, chaired by the former Tory Cabinet minister Greg Clark.
She will face claims that schools will have to close without more coronavirus tests and that thousands of teachers are already being forced to stay at home because of the lack of testing.
It was Mr Clark, when Boris Johnson was appearing before the liaison committee of senior MPs, who quizzed the prime minister about coronavirus testing capacity.
He asked the PM: “Do we have currently, enough testing capacity available?”
North East England faces Covid curfew on FRIDAY:— Insight Trends (@insight_trends) September 16, 2020
Bars will be closed at 10pm and households banned from mixing’ under plans due to be announced tomorrow.
The new rules are expected to come into force after midnight on Friday September 18 after a dramatic rise of the virus. pic.twitter.com/dnIciaGzEd
And Mr Johnson replied: “The short answer to that is: no, we don’t. Let’s be in no doubt that there has been a massive increase in testing capacity.”
Mr Clark then asked when the capacity would be in place and was told: “We’ll be at 500,000 by the end of October.”
And asked by Mr Clark if that would be enough to meet the demand projected at that time, the prime minister replied: “Well, we sincerely hope so.”
Mr Johnson was then asked about another national lockdown and replied: “I don’t want a second national lockdown.
“I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.
“And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous.”
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