POLITICS
29/09/2020 10:08 BST

Tory Minister Admits She 'Doesn't Know' New Coronavirus Lockdown Rules

Gillian Keegan was unable to tell people in the north-east of England if they can meet in pub gardens.

A Conservative minister has admitted even she does not know the lockdown rules imposed on the north-east of England.

Tougher restrictions banning people from mixing with other households in any setting will be introduced on Tuesday night in large parts of the region due to a continued sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

It had been illegal for two households to mix inside or in a garden, but it was only guidance that they should not meet at public venues, including restaurants and pubs.

Gillian Keegan, the skills minister was sent out by the government on Tuesday morning to speak on its behalf.

But questioned on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on whether separate households were still allowed to meet up in pubs gardens, Keegan said: “I’m sorry I can’t clarify that.

“I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.”

Pressed on how people are meant to keep up to date with the latest restrictions when ministers cannot, she added: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question.

“I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the north-east.”

Labour’s shadow health minister Alex Norris said: “It speaks volumes that even the government’s own ministers don’t know what’s going on.

“This will do little to inspire public confidence in the north-east and across the country.

“The Conservatives’ incompetence is hampering our response to this pandemic.”

Restrictions will begin on Wednesday and be enforceable by law in the areas of Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland. 

The leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon, told the BBC on Tuesday that while the new rules were needed they had been introduced in a “chaotic” way.

“We had had discussions last week that led us to believe that this was going to happen. We just weren’t pre-warned that it was actually going to happen. It didn’t help,” he said.

It comes as the worldwide death toll from the coronavirus passed one million, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.