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Health Minister Edward Argar has been accused of blaming pubgoers for a spike in Covid-19 cases, just months after the Government urged Britons to support their local.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged Britons to return to pubs after lockdown restrictions were eased in July.

The Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which ran through August, then saw food-led pubs reap the rewards of £10 per person off bills . They reported 5.3 per cent like-for-like growth compared to August last year.

But lockdown restrictions are now to imposed on parts of the North East following “concerning rates of infection”.

From Friday, residents in Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham will be banned from socialising with other people outside their own households or support bubble, while food and drink venues will be restricted to table service only. Leisure and entertainment venues must close between 10pm and 5am.

Talking today about the rise in infectoin rates in the area, Mr Argar suggested that the night-time economy has “fuelled” transmission.

“Take the north west,” he told Sky News.

“What we see is people not necessarily full adhering to social distancing requirements; households meeting up in close proximity and obviously a night-time economy can fuel that… when people have been to the pub, people have been out late into the evening, that’s one of the ways that transmission can increase”, he said.

Mr Argar’s remarks received criticism on social media. Among those who questioned the comments was barrister Jolyon Maugham, who said: “June – Boris Johnson urges people to “do their patriotic best for Britain and go to the pub”.

“September – Health Minister Edward Argar blames people going to the pub for the rise in coronavirus.”

Britons have packed out pubs (PA)

Another wrote: “Edward Argar the health minister just said it’s your own fault, because you go to pubs and meet people.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has said people have to be “both confident and cautious” and that it is “crucial” the country does not re-enter “some great lockdown again that stops business from functioning”.

He told The Sun: “Christmas we want to protect, and we want everyone to have a fantastic Christmas. But the only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.

“So if we can grip it now, stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.”

Mr Johnson has admitted there is not enough capacity in the testing system after demand “massively accelerated” in recent weeks.

He told MPs at the Liaison Committee on Wednesday: “We don’t have enough testing capacity now because, in an ideal world, I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately.”

He said the virus was spreading from the young to the more vulnerable elderly, with the rate of cases among the over-80s doubling in just days – and warned that would “lead to mortality”.