World News – GB – Coronavirus chaos as not even No. 10 or Minister clarifies rules on meetings in pubs


Gillian Keegan admitted that she didn’t know if you could meet your friends at a beer garden in the Northeast – and the PM’s spokesperson didn’t say no either Later the government clarified that it would not be illegal – but it would be against the guidelines

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Government coronavirus laws faced further chaos today after even a Tory cabinet minister or 10 Downing Street were unable to explain how they would work

Minister Gillian Keegan admitted she was baffled after being asked whether a new ban on meeting in the North East will apply to outdoor pub cafes or the terraces of restaurants and outdoor cafes

Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman could not provide clarity He said: « The Department of Health is laying out all the details of the measures it announced last night later today »

The government then clarified the situation around 11.30 a.m. It won’t be illegal to meet people from other households in these open-air bars and restaurants in the northeast – but it will be against the guidelines

Those who encounter other households inside, including in a pub or restaurant, can be fined £ 200 for a first offense, doubling for each repeat to a cap of £ 6,400

As of midnight tonight, it is illegal to meet people from another household socially in « indoor places », including pubs and restaurants, in Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside , Northumberland and Sunderland

Matt Hancock told the House of Commons the change would take what were already guidelines for residents of the Northeast and make it criminal law

But Northeast Council leaders were not made aware of the change until it was announced yesterday and some key details were not available until noon Tuesday

When asked if this would apply to outdoor spaces in pubs and restaurants, Chichester MP Ms Keegan admitted: ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t clarify this’ and asked Sky News about rules in different areas, she replied: « I’m not an expert »

When asked how normal people are supposed to play by the rules even though she cannot as a government minister, she replied: « I do not represent the North East »

Ms Keegan is not Minister of Health, but has been chosen by the government to represent her in a series of morning television talks

Labor attacked skills minister Shadow health minister Alex Norris said: « It says a lot that even government ministers don’t know what’s going on

« It will hardly inspire public confidence in the North East and across the country

He was asked to clarify whether new laws in the Northeast prevent people from separated households from meeting in the gardens of pubs and restaurants

She replied: « I’m sorry I couldn’t clarify this I know in the rest of the country you can usually meet in a pub and book a table

« I don’t know the answer to this question, but I’m sure they can find the answer to this question

Pressed on how people are supposed to keep up with the latest restrictions when ministers can’t, she said: « I’m sorry I can’t answer that question I’m sure there has a lot of people who might I don’t represent the northeast « 

Asked later whether Boris Johnson « represents the North East », the Prime Minister’s spokesman replied: « He is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as you surely know »

This comes against a backdrop of wider fury over the government introducing new criminal laws against the coronavirus without prior approval from MPs – or even bothering to tell them about it

It is now illegal to force your enemies to isolate themselves by pretending you went to the pub with them

You will be fined £ 4,000 for a first offense for leaving solitary « recklessly » You may be fined for hiding your family from Test and Trace, for failing to babysit your teenager in his room or even for failing to tell your boss why you are at home

When asked if people would start drinking earlier due to the 10pm bar curfew, she replied, « In that case the pubs will still make money, I guess »

But even the leaders of the Northeastern councils were not consulted beforehand on the change in their region – which one leader called « chaotic »

Gateshead Council Chief Martin Gannon told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: « This was announced in the House of Commons and we were not told in advance that the announcement was going to be made

« However, we had discussions last week that led us to believe this was going to happen We just weren’t told it was actually going to happen It didn’t help

« I was inundated with phone calls and emails last night from people asking me, ‘Can we do this, can we do that? « and in fact I did not have the precise wording of the regulation in front of us

« So the way these things are going is a bit chaotic, Nick (Forbes, Head of Newcastle City Council) was absolutely right to be bored about it »

M Forbes added: « While we were discussing with the government about possible additional restrictions, the Secretary of State stood up again and announced changes without telling us he was about to do so.

« We want to work constructively with the government, but the way these measures are communicated in the headlines and without details does nothing for public confidence

« We asked for clarification on new restrictions, testing and support for the businesses most affected »

Gillian Keegan

News from the world – GB – Coronavirus chaos because not even No10 or the minister clarifies the rules on meetings in pubs


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