Today the North East has been placed into Tier 4 restrictions by government, alongside many other parts of the country.
We understand this may be disappointing for our residents and businesses who have worked so hard with us to try and slow the spread of the virus, but we ask again for everyone's support so that these Tier 4 restrictions have the impact they need to.
We thank everyone who has been doing their bit for so long, and we know everyone desperately wishes we could see an end to the restrictions.
We understand people are tired and frustrated but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it has been uplifting to see vaccinations being delivered across the region every day which can give us hope for 2021. Today's news that the Astra Zeneca vaccine has been approved makes this light shine a little brighter and will be a welcome boost for the vaccine programme.
As our Directors of Public Health stated last week, the new variant of the deadly virus is being transmitted almost 70% faster than other strains and vulnerable communities, NHS services and social care facilities have been quickly consumed by it in the south of the country so it is vital we act now to avoid our local services being overwhelmed.
Our view is that the Government should consider a national lockdown now to ensure the spread of the new variant is slowed and efforts can be focussed on the crucial roll out of the vaccine. This is a national problem and a national solution is required now.
After a disrupted Christmas the last thing any of us wanted was further restrictions as we enter 2021 but sadly we feel this is the only sensible option to protect our health and care services and the most vulnerable in our communities.
One in three people have Covid-19 without symptoms and so are spreading it without realising, so we need to be even more vigilant around social distancing, social contacts and maintain strong hand hygiene - washing our hands regularly and wearing face coverings everywhere the law requires us to.
Under Tier 4 there should be no household mixing inside, apart from within a support bubble, only meeting with a maximum of one person from another household outdoors, while non-essential shops, personal care, indoor gyms must close alongside our hospitality industry which has been forced to stay closed for the last two months.
We will continue to press government for fair decisions and continue to seek strengthened business support to help businesses potentially affected by further measures and continue work with ministers on how best to deploy targeted community testing to open our economy, while seeking localisation of the national test and trace programme. Government decisions regarding schools are communicated directly to education establishments, without consultation with Local Authorities, however continue to provide strong support to all our schools and education settings throughout these times.
In the meantime, anyone with symptoms should also book a test as soon as possible and follow the guidance around self-isolation until the result is known and thereafter if it comes back positive.
We all need to put in that extra effort to keep ourselves, our friends, our families and our communities as safe as possible in the coming weeks. Thank You
Cllr Simon Henig, CBE, 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