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COVID restrictions intensify in North East England amid soaring cases

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock   -   Copyright  Matt Dunham/AP
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Hundreds of thousands of people in North East England have been told to avoid socialising and observe a 10 pm restaurant curfew amid soaring COVID-19 cases in the region.

The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that people in the area must not socialise with others outside of their household.

From midnight on Saturday there will also be restrictions on leisure and entertainment venues, which must close between 10pm and 5am.

The regions affected include Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, County Durham and Sunderland.

"Like many other countries around the world, we're continuing to see a concerning rise in cases, with 3,991 new cases recorded yesterday," Hancock said in parliament on Thursday.

"We've seen concerning rates of infection in parts of the North East. Sunderland, for example, now has an incidence rate of 103 positive cases per 100,000 population."

His remarks came as Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of neighbouring Scotland, said her country's 'R' infection rate was now higher than one and was possibly as high as 1.4.

The 'R' rate measures the number of people that a person infected with Covid-19 will contaminate on average.

In a change to public health advice in England, Hancock also said patients in England experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should now contact the 111 telephone hotline and not report directly to hospital.