South Shields reacts to lockdown law making it illegal for family and friends to meet inside a public venue
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday, September 28, that households in seven north east areas, including South Tyneside, will be banned from mixing indoors in any setting, although COVID-secure schools and workplaces are not affected and previously agreed childcare exemptions remain in place..
While it was previously against Government advice to socialise with another household in a public venue, from midnight on Wednesday, September 30, it becomes law.
But, as of Tuesday afternoon, there was still confusion for many as they awaited more specific Government guidance on the matter.
Earlier on Tuesday (September 29), Boris Johnson was forced to apologise saying he ‘misspoke’ when trying to clarify details on the new restrictions being imposed in the North East, particularly in areas such as pub beer gardens.
South Shields businesses, residents and visitors have now reacted to the further restrictions with many raising concerns that the rules are not clear.
Richard Ord Jnr, who runs Colmans Seafood Temple, said: “It is going to have a massive effect on the hospitality industry.
“I think as a whole we have just got to find a way to get through it.
"We are quite lucky because we predominately focus on family dining. We’re hoping that families and couples keep dining with us and keep supporting local pubs, restaurants and venues.
"I think at the minute it’s really important to support local businesses.
"I think going forward it could be a nightmare in the run up to Christmas when you’d normally have Christmas parties coming. Obviously we don’t know how long these restrictions will be in place so it’s really hard to plan ahead.”
George Cook, 74, and John McDermott, 83, visited the coast on Tuesday to meet for fish and chips and to catch up over a pint.
Mr Cook, of Durham, said: “I think it’s something that perhaps has to be done. We want rid of this virus.
"I’ve come and met John today. Although we’re allowed to do so today it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to do tomorrow.
"I think it’s something that we have just got to put up with and then see how things go.
"I don’t think there’s much option I think (Boris) had to do what he’s done.”
Friend John described seeing large groups together on nights out from his home on the Quayside, in Newcastle, and says social distancing hasn’t been followed.
"I think they have done enough, I think they’ve gone a bit overboard at the minute,” said Mr McDermott. “I can’t understand the 10pm curfew because everyone just ends out on the street at the same time.
"I don’t think shutting an hour early compared to 11pm - when bars but not clubs would normally close – makes a difference.”
The new restrictions, which stop people from different households (outside of their bubble) socialising at venues such as pubs and restaurants, have been seen as another blow to the hospitality industry.
Restaurateur John Carlton, who owns Staith House in North Tyneside and Route in Newcastle, said: “Last week it was in the small print that it wasn’t actually against the law to meet people from outside your households in a venue – it was just advisable.
"A load of people just read the headlines on that and we got a lot of cancellations. Whereas this week, it’s the last day people from mixed households can sit at a table together indoors or anywhere otherwise we’re going to get fined.
The former Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, of South Shields, said: "Any tables of four, five and six, we’ve got to ring them and ask the question and bookings are going to drop off again.
“Now, with the new restrictions in, we just have to monitor the bookings closely and keep our fingers crossed it doesn’t put everyone off. But I’m not too hopeful because this R rate is on the rise.”
But the new law means loved ones are now also unable to socialise inside public venues in South Tyneside, Sunderland, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland and County Durham.
Some North East council leaders have said they were not consulted on the latest decision while South Tyneside Council has said they will issue a reaction to the new ruling once they have been informed about the details
With councils seeking clarity on what the new law means exactly, many were left wondering how it affected areas like pub beer gardens.
Others have raised concerns about the public’s wellbeing as families and friends are pulled apart for a second time.
Sarah Murphy, 31, of Inside Out - Personal Training and Boot Camps, said: “People’s mental health is just taking such a huge hit at the moment. I see it every day at work and I hear it from people who work in nursing and mental health.
"The tighter the restrictions are getting the more people are suffering mentally.
"It’s going to be harder for people to come back from.”
Jessica Murray, of South Shields, said: “It’s difficult to understand that teams can still play five-a-side but I might not be able to meet a friend for a walk in public or to stop for a drink in a cafe.”
The 34-year-old added: "I feel like they’re rushing to get announcements out instead of thinking about what they’re actually saying to people.
"[The Government] are trying to sort us out in the North East but they’re also trying to sort London out, there needs to be some consistency.”