Covid-19: Friends' meeting ban in North East 'confusing'

A street ranger patrols Northumberland Street amid the spread of the coronavirus disease in Newcastle

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The rate of Covid infections in the region is now more than 100 cases per 100,000

The government is creating “doubt and uncertainty” over new laws that leave people in north-east England facing fines for mixing in any indoor setting.

People who break the law, which comes into force on Wednesday because of a spike in Covid-19 cases, face a maximum £6,400 fine.

Mixing between households in any indoor setting, including pub, is banned.

But Newcastle City Council’s leader said a lack of detail has led people to spread “half truths and myths”.

“I’m not disputing that they need to act quickly but one of the things that undermines this, is the principle of community consent,” said Nick Forbes.

“The sense that we’re all collectively buying into these measures because we can see that they protect us all – is if there’s a gap between what’s announced in headlines and the details that people can understand.

“What that does is sow confusion, it creates doubt, it creates uncertainty.”

Households in the region had already been advised to avoid mixing but the new ban will be enforced with the fines.

Those aged over 18 taking part in an illegal gathering could be fined £200 for their first offence, which would be halved if paid within 14 days.

Second offences would incur a £400 fine, which would then double for each subsequent offence up to a maximum of £6,400.

Health secretary Matt Hancock, told the House of Commons that cases in the region had “risen sharply” and the rate of infections was now more than 100 cases per 100,000.

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