With local bans in place in parts of England, a mayor has fought back.
Middlesbrough Mayor-Elect Andy Preston said newly imposed local lockdown rules were “unacceptable” to the city.
His words came shortly after Health Secretary Matt Hancock placed new restrictions on Middlesbrough in addition to the Liverpool, Warrington and Hartlepool metropolitan areas.
These rules come into effect on Saturday.
Mr Preston says the decision is not fair – and will damage the local economy. Teesside Live Reports.
And he warned: “We are defying the government and are not accepting these measures.”
It is now illegal to mix anywhere in these areas indoors in these locations – and there is also a recommendation not to mix outside, in beer gardens or parks.
The new rules are being introduced to curb the increasing number of virus cases.
They will prohibit people from going into other people’s homes and going to pubs or restaurants with anyone other than those in their household.
But the independent council president is angry with the government.
On a Facebook video, Mr Preston said, “I have to tell you, I think this measure was put in place because of factual inaccuracies, a monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance.
“I do not accept the statement at all.
“I do not accept the measures.
“We need to speak to the government to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done and to maintain jobs and wellbeing.
“We are really disappointed. From today’s perspective, we are defying the government and not accepting these measures.
“We need to get Covid under control and work with people to find a way to keep jobs and mental health.”
The northeast was highlighted at a government meeting on Wednesday as one of the areas of England where the virus is spreading at worrying levels.
The highest number of daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 has so far been registered on Teesside – with 126 new positive tests.
Stockton also saw an increase of 45 cases, but Middlesbrough added 37 more and remains the worst hit area.
But Mr Preston said the recent moves made no sense to his region – and would harm both work and mental health.
He wrote: “Today’s announcement makes no sense to Middlesbrough.
“We tried to communicate with the government and get them to listen – but they didn’t get involved.
“We have proposed measures that do what the government wants, but also protect viable jobs and maintain mental health.
“They are now imposing restrictions that destroy viable jobs and damage mental health.
“At the moment, I don’t accept the government’s intended restrictions because they are based on ignorance.”
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Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councilors both asked for bans on household mixing on Tuesday.
However, they had said they didn’t want to put in place rules to prevent up to six people from mingling in bars and restaurants.
The government has decided to go further – and that is exactly what sparked the mayor’s anger.
Mr Hancock said £ 7m would be allocated to support the affected areas.
He said, “I know some rules are challenging, but they are necessary and there are early signs that they will work.”
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, had also been against additional measures – and had previously spoken in the House of Commons about the need for a clear exit strategy.
In response to the new restrictions, he said: “I would like to personally thank Mr Hancock for ensuring that the measures imposed on Middlesbrough include a clear, evidence-based exit strategy.
“I was clearly against further local restrictions at this point, especially since the latest national restrictions didn’t even have a week to sleep.
“And while I respectfully disagreed with the decision of Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston to apply for a local lockdown in Middlesbrough, I am sure he acted in good faith in making this request.
“Now that we are, we need to focus on protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Andy McDonald, Middlesbrough Labor MP, said the new measures were “inevitable”.
He said: “I have already said that no one welcomes any further restrictions, but we are sitting next to seven neighboring local authorities in the northeast on Teesside, where stricter restrictions have been in place for some time over worryingly high Covid-19 rates.”
“It’s only 13 miles from Middlesbrough to Sedgefield in County Durham. The virus is spreading throughout the Northeast at an extent that is of concern and the virus does not honor local authority boundaries between County Durham and the Tees Valley local authority areas. “