London, September 29
The number of fatalities as a result of COVID-19 has registered a rise for the second consecutive week across England and Wales, from 99 to 139, according to official statistics released on Tuesday.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that with the northern parts of England reported the biggest rise in deaths from the deadly virus, just as the region came under more stringent curbs on gatherings and inter-household mixing.
An estimated 2 million people in Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and the County Durham council area across the north-east of England had already been advised to avoid mixing but new rules from Tuesday mean these are now legally enforceable with fines.
For those aged over 18, the fines start at 200 pounds for a first offence and halved if paid within 14 days. Second offences would incur a 400 pounds fine, which would then double for each subsequent offence up to a maximum of 6,400 pounds.
“Unfortunately the number of cases continues to rise sharply. The incident rate across the area is now over 100 cases per 100,000. We know that a large number of these infections are taking place in indoor settings outside the home,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons, in reference to the tougher new measures.
“And so at the request of the local councils with whom we’ve been working closely, we will introduce legal restrictions on indoor mixing between households in any setting. We do not take these steps lightly, but we must take them, and take them now, because we know that swift action is more likely to bring the virus under control,” he said.
The changes are in addition to existing regulations prohibiting household mixing in private homes and gardens. However, some local councils have raised concerns that the new rules, which mean people from different households or friends are banned from meeting in indoor settings such as pubs and restaurants, are too confusing for the residents to interpret.
There have now been 1 million coronavirus-related deaths across the world since the pandemic began, with the UK accounting for around 42,000. The government has been following a policy of localised lockdowns as a “second wave” of the virus is believed to be currently sweeping across the country.
On Monday, fines starting at 1,000 pounds and rising up to 10,000 pounds for repeated failure to quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus came into force.
Employers who force or allow staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating will also be liable for fines of up to 10,000 pounds, while those on lower incomes who cannot work from home and can show that they have lost income as a result of the compulsory quarantine, lasting around 14 days, will be eligible for a new 500 pounds Test and Trace Support Payment. PTI