POLICE have said enforcing the new local lockdown across the region would be a ‘last resort’ and hope the public will comply with the new restrictions willingly.
From midnight households cannot mix with other households and pubs, cafes and restaurants will have to observe a 10pm curfew.
The new lockdown rules mean anyone over 18 who is caught flouting restrictions can be fined up to £3,200.
Those caught breaching local lockdown rules will be fined £100 for the first offence, lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days.
Meanwhile, a second offence will carry a £200 fine, doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
But Durham Constabulary has said it will not be taking a hard line with people as they get used to the new lockdown restrictions across the region, which do not affect Darlington or Teesside.
Superintendent Steve Long, of Durham Constabulary, said: “The Government has announced that further local restrictions are necessary in addition to those already in place nationally.
“We would like to thank the vast majority of people who have taken personal responsibility, done the right thing and stuck to the guidance over the last few months.
“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the new regulations and encourage people to act responsibly: only then will we move to enforcement as a last resort.”
Over 300 cases of coronavirus are regularly being confirmed across the region every day and yesterday a further 34 cases were identified in County Durham alone.
Terry Collins, chairman of the regional chief executive’s forum and chief executive of Durham County Council, said: “It is incredibly important that we all work together if we are to prevent the further spread of coronavirus and reduce infection rates.
“While there is much we can do as councils, it is also vital that everyone does their bit by following the latest public health guidelines, particularly with regard to handwashing, the wearing of face coverings and social distancing.
“The past few months have been difficult for many and there are still challenging times ahead but we will continue to work together to do all we can to keep residents across the region safe.”
Amanda Healey, Director of Public Health at Durham County Council, said the local lockdown decision were not being taken lightly.
She said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been incredibly challenging for all of us and it will be tough to hear that these essential, stricter measures are being introduced.
“This decision has not come about lightly but we must remain focused on protecting the health of all our residents.
“Our best hope of achieving this is to take a shared approach, to work with every community, resident and business in Tyneside, Wearside, Northumberland and County Durham to control any further outbreaks of the virus. This is at the heart of our decision making.
“For some, it is much higher and we know that if we do not take action now, even stricter measures will be needed and imposed upon us, whereas if we move fast and work together we stand a chance of reducing and shortening this phase of the pandemic.
“These new restrictions will help reduce transmissions in key settings, but only if we all follow them at all times in keeping with the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ Public Health guidance.”
Durham City MP May Foy said she was ‘saddened’ the restrictions have been introduced, but understood the need for them.
She said: “So many people across the constituency have already made huge sacrifices and it is disappointing that the rising number of cases mean that they are having to be asked to do so again.”