Sunderland has been added to a national watch list for 'enhanced support' in the fight against COVID-19.

The city is on the list because of a steep rise in the number of cases.

There were 244 new positive cases in the seven days to Tuesday 8 September. This equates to around 75 cases per 100,000 people - three times higher than the national rate.

There are no formal restrictions or lockdown measures as part of the 'enhanced support'. However, there are warnings that if cases continue to rise some local lockdown measures could be reimposed such as restrictions on opening hours in pubs, bars, or restaurants and other venues.

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller and chair of the Sunderland Outbreak Control Board said: "We welcome the Secretary of State's decision to make Sunderland an area of 'enhanced support'.

"At the moment this is about support for Sunderland, not restrictions.

"Yet, we are very close to a local lockdown if there is not a rapid and drastic reduction in the number of cases. The virus is spreading across Sunderland and we need to work together to stop it.

"It is very simple: The current situation is extremely serious and if more people do not take more responsibility and act more sensibly then we will go back into a lockdown. This is our last chance."

Sunderland has seen a rise in cases with many linked to pubs, clubs and bars. While the rise was initially seen in the Houghton and Fence Houses area, more recently there have been increases in cases in other areas of the city.

Actions being taken by the City Council and its partners include:

• Suspending care home visits to all but essential visits

• Visiting suspended on all adult inpatient wards at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

• Increased monitoring of licensed premises and appropriate enforcement - this will be focussed initially on pubs, clubs and bars

• Local follow-up of cases to increase intelligence about how people are being exposed to the virus

• Engagement with stakeholders and community leaders to identify ways in which infections can be brought under control.

Additional national support may include:

• Priority for mobile testing units as required

• Priority for NHS Test and Trace call centre tracing resources

• Priority for test results and data sharing.

Gillian Gibson, Sunderland's Director of Public Health, said: "All the latest data shows how everybody - of all ages - must continue to stay vigilant, keep two metres apart from people outside of their household as much as possible, continue to wash their hands, get tested and self-isolate if you are showing symptoms.

"If there are more positive cases then we will look to further actions, such as other cities and towns have seen recently.

"It's a very straight forward message for everyone: COVID 19 is still with us and we need everyone to help stop it spreading so we are all protecting our families and friends."