Throughout this pandemic the people of this region have responded collectively and effectively at every stage, but we really need everyone to continue to pull together to help drive down the worrying rise we are seeing in coronavirus cases.
The delta variant is transmitting quickly. If we are to keep the North East open and see the remaining restrictions lifted, then we need resilience more than ever before.
Whether it be Euro2020, school sports days or proms, outdoor events or indoor dining, weddings, celebrations or even just meeting family and friends in gardens and homes – we all need to enjoy each occasion safely, take a personal responsibility to follow the guidance and not provide the virus with easy ways to transmit.
We are in charge of our own destiny and we must continue to follow the simple message hands, face, space fresh air, while working from home if possible and minimising social contact.
Vaccinations are open to everyone over 18 and we are doing everything we can to support NHS colleagues to deliver jabs into arms as quickly as possible, with extra pop up sites, drop in clinics, queue and wait facilities and community pharmacies coming on stream alongside appointments through the national booking system.
The volume of bookings and early take up of vaccinations among younger people has been heartening. We need residents of all ages to follow their example and make sure they get both doses of the vaccine.
This virus continues to find ways of mutating and infecting but thankfully the vaccines – especially after both doses – are affording us protection and giving us hope that we will soon be able to live with Covid just as we have learnt to do with other viruses.
But that time is not yet. We have campaigns running to address all the questions people may have about vaccination – answered by the professionals who know how safe and effective all the vaccines are.
This region has lived with restrictions longer than many and we do not under-estimate how difficult it has been to follow guidance and rules, but we just need to look at the way the delta variant is spreading to see how things might turn out.
Hospitalisations are slowly rising again in some parts of the country, particularly among younger age groups and those who are not fully protected by the vaccine – thankfully deaths remain low.
We continue to work with the government and are looking to gain access to all their communication channels to target our regional messages around testing and vaccination to all residents.
We are also seeking local autonomy to reintroduce face coverings in North East school settings until the end of term and to further localise NHS Test and Trace to support the huge efforts around contact tracing and isolation.
Support for further targeted surge testing, where appropriate, would be welcomed as would government help to ensure a consistent approach to events.
This includes guidance on how we might prohibit events based on case rates, while having a policy of lateral flow testing as a prerequisite to attendance for those events which meet specific criteria, learning from the test events elsewhere.
And we are seeking clarity on any extension of national schemes, such as furlough, to support parts of the economy affected and economic recovery.
All these measures are aimed at reducing transmission, encouraging even greater vaccination uptake to protect our residents’ health, wellbeing, and livelihoods.
Let us be clear, we are extremely concerned at the situation the region is facing, but we are also confident, given the way everyone has responded, that we can get through this difficult period by working together at a national, regional and local level. Thank You.
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