MILLIONS more people were placed into the toughtest level of restrictions from today marking an unhappy new year for many across the North-East.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced 23 more areas, including the North-East and Tees Valley, were to be placed under Tier 4 Covid restrictions - the toughest of restrictions - from today.

The tightening of restrictions across the country has been welcomed across the political divide to curb the out-of-control spread of coronavirus.

But analysis of covid rates across the country show some areas have been plunged into the toughest restrictions despite having some of the lowest levels in the country.

Durham City, for example, recored just 83 new cases in the seven days until Christmas Day. It represents an infection rate of 55 per 100,000.

The compares to a rate of 248 per 100,000 across County Durham as a whole.

Certain places across the country, which are also face the same Tier 4 restrictions, have infection rates over 1,000 per 100,000, including much of London.

The areas with the highests rates in County Durham include High Shincliffe and Bowburn with a rate of 465 per 100,000, Coxhoe and Quarrington Hill with a rate of 484 per 100,000 and Sherburn and West Rainton with a rate of 490 per 100,000.

Shildon also has a rate well below the national average, recording just eight cases in the week up to Christmas. That represents just 77 caes per 100,000.

And Newton Aycliffe South only recorded 12 cases, or 168 per 100,000, despite being grouped together with the wider Tier 4 lockdown.

The Northern Echo:

Upper Teessdale has one of the lowest rates in the region recoring just 3 cases, or 58 per 100,000.

In Darlington, Bank Top has the loest rate at 102 per 100,000. Across Darlington as a whole the rate is 237 per 100,000.

Redcar and Cleveland, however, has been grouped in with areas of high infection, despite having some of the lowest rates in the country.

The town's MP has said the area has been "trapped in the Tees Valley" arguing it should instead be under the restrictions imposed in North Yorkshire, which was moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3 in the latest review.

Statistics show that Redcar and Cleveland's infection rate is 127.6 per 100,000, which had fallen from 137.8 in the previous seven days.

The Northern Echo:

Redcar Lakes South, for example, has a rate even lower at just 67 per 100,000.

At the other end of the scale, Great Ayton and Stokesley recorded 4,022 (up 122.2%) over the same period, which represents a rate of 518 per 100,000.

Neighbouring Rudby and Ingleby is even higher with 5,438 cases in a week (up 237.5%). That's a rate of 623 per 100,000.

But despite the wildly differing rates, we are all in it together and we'll have to make do.


What are the rules in Tier 4 North-East and Tees Valley?

You must stay at home and only leave for a specific purpose or if you have a “reasonable excuse” - which bears similarities to the first national lockdown. 

This includes going to work if it cannot be done from home, shopping for essentials such as food and medicine, attending education or training, using registered childcare, outdoor exercise and for medical reasons.

The rules are strict: you cannot meet other people indoors unless you live with them or they are part of your existing support bubble.

You are allowed to take unlimited exercise alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble, or one other person. Indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms, must close.

Outdoors, you can only meet one person from another household in a public place.

Support and childcare bubbles are still allowed in Tier 4 areas.

Early years settings and childminders can remain open as normal, while nannies are also allowed to carry on providing services, including in the home.

Within a Tier 4 are, you can only leave home for work, education or the limited number of other legally permitted reasons.

Residents are encouraged to keep their travel local, reduce their number of journeys and avoid leaving their village, town or city area.

Walking and cycling is also recommended, with people advised to avoid public transport at busy times.

What are the rules in Tier 3 North Yorkshire?

Social mixing is banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant and via table service. 

They can, however, provide food and drink through takeaways until 11pm, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery.

The rule of six applies in some outdoor settings such as parks, public gardens and sports courts.

Shops and places of worship can remain open, as can schools and colleges, while universities must reflect wider restrictions with the option to move to greater online provision.

Up to 15 guests are allowed at weddings and 30 people can attend funerals, with 15 allowed at wakes, but wedding receptions are not permitted.

People living in Tier 3 areas are advised against overnight stays in other parts of the UK and should avoid travel where possible in and out of the area, unless it is for work, education or caring responsibilities.