South Tyneside has been identified as an 'area of enhanced support' following further rises in coronavirus cases this week.
The move is an escalation of its status last week when it was placed on the Government's watchlist as an 'area of concern.' If the number of cases continues to increase then the Borough is likely to see additional restrictions imposed, similar to those seen in the North West and Leicestershire.
The latest test data shows an increase of 80 cases in the last seven days which equates to 53 cases per 100,000 people.
Gateshead, Sunderland and Newcastle have also been identified, along with South Tyneside, as 'areas of enhanced support.' This means they will benefit from additional testing and analysis, as well as closer monitoring from central government.
The Council and its partners have already taken a number of steps to try and curb the spread of the virus. These include advising care homes to temporarily suspend visits to residents to protect the most vulnerable while visits to all adult inpatient wards at South Tyneside Hospital have also been suspended. Enhanced contact tracing is being carried out to identify any connections between cases and hot spot areas within the Borough. The police and Council staff have also stepped up spot checks at pubs and restaurants and will take action against anyone in breach of the guidance.
Director of Public Health Tom Hall said: "This really is the last opportunity we have to pull together and slow the spread of the virus. If we cannot turn this around then it is likely to lead to more draconian restrictions on our everyday lives and losing the freedoms we have only fairly recently started to enjoy again.."
Everyone is encouraged to follow the guidance around thorough and regular handwashing and social distancing. People should wear a face covering when expected to do so unless they are exempt. People who were previously asked to "shield" are being advised to be extra vigilant and limit their contact with people outside of their home. Under new rules, people can only meet socially in groups of no more than six people. Anyone failing to comply will be breaking the law and risks a fine. It is also important that people follow the advice from NHS Test and Trace if they are notified as a close contact of someone confirmed as having the virus and self-isolate for 14 days. People should only get a test if they are displaying symptoms of COVID -19.
The Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Iain Malcolm, said: "Let me make it absolutely clear that we are at a tipping point in South Tyneside.. This really is a case of life and death. If we do not come together and make a collective effort to control the virus then people who are the most vulnerable to the virus may die. I urge each and every one of you to do your bit to control this virus and protect our communities."