Our view of the Government's Covid Winter Plan
With the return of colder weather on the horizon, and children and young people going back to schools, colleges, and universities, it is essential that clear and robust plans are put in place to protect us from any significant increase in Covid-19 cases and the burden that would place on the NHS.
While cases have remained relatively high, and consistent daily death figures have served as a sobering reminder that the virus has never gone away despite restrictions being eased in July, we always knew that the approach to winter would be a significant test.
We are pleased that plans have been approved for 12 to 15 year olds to receive Covid-19 vaccines. We know vaccines are effective at not only reducing our chances of serious illness, but they also help reduce transmission and that could be pivotal in helping to prevent outbreaks in teaching environments that could also spread to households and the wider community. The benefits of these vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds outweigh the risks.
Similarly, we are reassured to hear that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over the age of 50 will be offered booster jabs to improve their protection from the virus.
All doses of the vaccine offer a layer of protection to our region and we continue to urge anyone who is eligible to be vaccinated, whether that is first, second or booster, to get their jabs as soon as possible.
The Government's Covid Winter Plan, as has been set out, puts the onus onto all of us to do our bit.
None of us want to return to periods of lockdown, and it is right that they be kept as a last resort. They have a huge impact on our wellbeing and restrain industries that are trying to get back on their feet. Our region is working hard on our economic recovery and we must all work together to keep moving forward and to prevent measures that could harm this progress.
We should all continue to be cautious, considerate and kind to others as we enter this next stage of the pandemic. Simple measures like maintaining a safe social distance and good ventilation, the use of face coverings, and regular handwashing are effective and helping to manage the spread of the virus. The fact the Government is holding onto the regulatory powers to bring back mandatory mask wearing and working from home show how essential those simple measures remain.
Taking regular Lateral Flow Tests to spot if you have the virus without realising, and getting a PCR and self-isolating when required will also be key as we all play our part in keeping our region safe, our children and young people in education, and businesses open.
But still, our best defence remains the vaccine. They have already saved tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives. They are readily available at vaccination centres, pop-up clinics and elsewhere. Please, if you haven't done so already, make sure you come forward for yours and encourage every eligible person in your family and community to do the same.
The pandemic is far from over and the months ahead may well test our resolve to the limit once again. But as we have done throughout, we must continue to work together to protect our communities, support the NHS, and allow our villages, towns and cities to recover properly from this hugely difficult period.
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