People in Middlesbrough should still obey the new coronavirus restrictions when they come into force despite the frustration and fury caused, the town’s elected mayor has said.
Independent Andy Preston issued a stinging response to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s plans which went further than the mayor had asked, banning households from mixing in private, but also in public settings such as pubs.
That put Middlesbrough, and neighbouring Hartlepool, in line with other boroughs in the North East, but against the wishes of Mr Preston, who earlier this week had called for added measures but urged the Government not to damage the hospitality trade.
In a Twitter video Mr Preston, said the decision was based on inaccuracies, he expressed his disappointment and urged the Government to speak to the local authority and think again.
And in what was believed to be a first for an authority figure in this country, he added: “As things stand we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.
“We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.”
It was later clarified that Mr Preston will urge people and businesses to comply with the regulations once they come in, from midnight on Saturday.
Hartlepool Council leader Councillor Shane Moore shared Mr Preston’s frustration, adding: “What’s extremely disappointing is that our request to the Government was simple because statistics show that 80% of new cases are the result of household visits.
“We made a clear request to have household visits restricted for the time being until we are able to get this situation under control, it really was that simple and clear.
“What’s come back is a ban not only on household visits but also on visits to any social setting with anybody you know, so that means you can’t, for example, go to a Covid-secure pub, cafe or restaurant with family of friends.
“This will have a seriously detrimental effect on people’s mental health and also have a devastating impact on local businesses, and we would urge ministers to think again.”
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, had been opposed to extra measures but said it was now time to comply with them.
He said: “There is now nothing constructive to be done other than to urge people to respect the law so we can leave these restrictions as quickly as possible.”
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the new measures were “inevitable”.
He said: “I’ve said before that no one welcomes further restrictions, but we on Teesside sit next to seven neighbouring North East local authorities where tighter restrictions have been imposed for some time now because of worryingly high rates of Covid-19.”
After announcing the measures, Mr Hancock said: “Our strategy is to suppress the virus, protecting the economy, education, and the NHS, until a vaccine can make us safe.
“I understand how much of an imposition these new measures are.
“I want rules like this to stay in place for as short a time as possible.
“I am sure we all do.”