From midnight tonight, around 2 million residents will be banned from mixing with other households, announced the health secretary on Thursday morning.
Pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises will also be forced to close their doors to the public between 10pm and 5am and move to table service only.
The restrictions will apply to Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland – which have seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.
Matt Hancock said council leaders in the North East had written to him following ‘concerning rates of infection’ urging that tighter restrictions were put in place.
He said: ‘I know, the whole house knows, that these decisions have a real impact on families, on businesses, and on local communities and I can tell everyone affected that we do not take these decisions lightly.
‘We agree with the local councils that we must follow the data and act. And the data says that we must act now, so we can control the virus and keep people safe.’
Hancock revealed that Sunderland’s infection rate was up to 103 per 100,000 people, while in South Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead the figures are above 70.
There were 1,106 new cases in just one week across the areas being put under the latest restrictions.
The health secretary also announced that a further £2.7 billion will be given to the NHS to support it during the challenging winter months ‘to help it operate safely in a world in which Covid is still at large’.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said the measures are mostly being imposed on social gatherings because the virus is spreading faster in such situations.
He said: ‘The evidence we’ve found from local testing is that it’s spreading in three main areas: in pubs, in people’s homes and in grassroots sports.’
Forbes said council leaders have requested additional funding for police to enforce the new measures and local testing facilities, amid a shortage of tests across the country.
He said: ‘All of the testing facilities in our region are more or less at full capacity every day – we’re hearing stories of people being sent 200 miles to get a test and that’s not acceptable.’
It comes after local measures in Greater Manchester and Birmingham were put in place in a bid to address rising rates of infection.
Ministers are also reportedly considering imposing a 10pm curfew for the whole country if the ‘rule of six’ doesn’t work, after the R rate climbed above 1.
There has been a 167% increase in new people testing positive for coronavirus since the end of August, Test and Trace figures have revealed today.
So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.