Thank You for Helping Us Take the Next Step Forward
Monday marks a major step forward in the ongoing battle with the pandemic.
That the Roadmap to ease Covid-19 restrictions in England has continued along its original schedule is testament to the efforts of everyone playing their part to control the virus.
Up and down the country, just as we have seen in our region, people have been following the rules to protect their relatives, neighbours and colleagues from this virus that has so severely affected all our lives.
The reward for the sacrifices we have all made is that restrictions can be eased, and we can all enjoy another step forward.
The changes on Monday will make it easier for families to reunite, as they can once again visit relatives and stay overnight. More businesses can reopen or welcome customers indoors and people can enjoy breaks in the UK.
And, while we are able to embrace loved ones with less fear of putting one another in danger, we still need to do this cautiously so as not to inadvertently pass on the virus.
We cannot afford to forget that Covid is still a threat, and our communities are still at risk.
There has been extraordinary progress of the vaccination programme and we remain eternally grateful to all of those who continue to make its rollout such a success and to everyone who takes up their vaccinations.
While younger people who are yet to be vaccinated are less susceptible to serious illness from the virus, they are not without risk. Similarly, some older people and some who work closely with vulnerable individuals remain unvaccinated, and many more are still awaiting a second dose.
The measures we have been taking throughout the course of the pandemic - Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air - remain of enormous importance, as does making changes to our lives such as regular testing to help identify those of us who have Covid without knowing it.
Wearing face coverings in shops, on public transport, or when moving around indoor hospitality settings, will help keep you, staff and other customers safe, while opening windows when welcoming friends indoors and maintaining social distance also lessens the risk.
With increasing opportunities to go out and enjoy ourselves, we must also pay particular attention to how we travel. Public transport continues to be better for our environment and the air we breathe compared to individual cars. Operators have gone to great lengths to make metro, buses and trains as safe as possible, and this is helped if you make sure you follow the Covid safety measures in place so you and your fellow passengers can travel confidently.
Together, our region has come through a long and difficult time and our communities have gone to incredible lengths to protect as many people as possible. Let's ensure that while we reap the benefits of the progress, we don't take any unnecessary risks to jeopardise that hard work.
Keep on doing your bit to protect others, take up the offer of both vaccine doses when your time comes, and together we will reach Stage Four of the roadmap on June 21 with the prospect of even fewer restrictions on our daily lives.
Wendy Burke, Director of Public Health, North Tyneside
Amanda Healy, Director Public Health, County Durham
Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health, Gateshead
Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health, Newcastle
Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health, Northumberland
Tom Hall, Director of Public Health, South Tyneside
Gerry Taylor, Director of Public Health, Sunderland