North East named as Enhanced Response Area
Covid-19 restrictions may have been lifted, but from Monday the whole North East will receive additional government support as an Enhanced Response Area following a steep rise in Covid-19 cases in the area, serving as a sobering reminder that we all still have a responsibility to make sure we continue to do our bit.
The last 18 months have tested all of us, and we are grateful to everybody for your immense efforts in helping to protect your friends, families, and others from the virus.
While restrictions have now eased we must remember that the virus is still with us and cases continue to rise and councils, the NHS and other public services are under pressure.
We must all continue to be cautious as we take the next step on the roadmap and carry on looking out for one another, not least our frontline workers who we all rely on.
That is why we are continuing to ask people to help keep the North East open and to protect others.
Our best defence against the virus is still the vaccines, and the NHS, health partners, local authorities and countless volunteers have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure they are accessible to all. Getting a vaccine will mean you are less likely to become ill, and have less chance of spreading the virus to others who may be more vulnerable than you are.
The evidence is indisputable - vaccination works and has hugely reduced the risk of serious illness. The vast majority of cases are in those yet to be vaccinated and those who get Covid who have been double-jabbed are generally showing mild, if any symptoms.
Please make sure you get both doses. You can book appointments now at www.nhs.uk or attend your nearest walk-in centre. It is the most important thing we can all do to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
We are pleased to see that, despite the lifting of requirements, the majority of people continue to wear a face covering in busy indoor spaces and on public transport, because we know they are effective at providing protection.
Continue to wash your hands regularly and meet others outdoors where you can, because we know these steps help to prevent the spread of the virus. And we should all be mindful that people have different views and be kind to each other, especially to those who may feel anxious about the easing of restrictions.
As we to learn to live with the virus, we must do so as safely as possible. If we throw caution to the wind now, NHS services may face another surge in pressures, already-stretched council services will be further pushed to the limit, and the virus will be able to do more damage to our communities which have already suffered so much.
With fewer restrictions on our lives, it is also vital that we don't forget about the importance of testing as the virus continues to spread through our villages, towns and cities. Widely-available Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) that you can take at home will help identify if you have the virus without realising so you can self-isolate to ensure you don't pass it on further. And PCR tests will continue to be available for those with symptoms and people confirming a positive LFT result.
Where required, you will still need to self-isolate to help stop onward transmission.
Together we have achieved so much during the pandemic and we thank you for your continued support. Let's carry on being careful to make sure these collective efforts are not wasted in the weeks and months to come.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader, Durham County Council
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader, Gateshead Council
Cllr Nick Forbes CBE, Leader, Newcastle City Council
Norma Redfearn CBE, Elected Mayor, North Tyneside Council
Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader, Northumberland County Council
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader, South Tyneside Council
Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader, Sunderland City Council
Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor
Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner