North East leaders support delay to lifting Covid-19 restrictions
Council leaders have called for patience after the Government delayed the full lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday the remaining restrictions would remain until July 19 due to the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19.
Residents and businesses had been planning for restrictions ending on June 21 but the Government says the delay will allow more people to get the vaccination and ease pressure on NHS services.
The news has been welcomed by the LA7 – made up of the leaders of Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and Durham councils as well as North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.
In a statement, they said: “The government’s decision to delay the further lifting of restrictions is one we support given the concerning rise in case numbers due to the spread of the delta variant.
“It is vital we use this extra time to ensure second dose vaccinations to the over 40s and those who are at clinical risk are delivered at even greater pace to afford as much protection to those most vulnerable to Covid, while at the same time speeding up the programme for all adults.
“Thankfully, we have not yet seen a big increase in hospitalisations or deaths during this latest wave.
“The Delta variant is more transmissible and we have seen an increasing number of outbreaks and clusters of cases in the North East which are being controlled by our Public Health teams.
“It is for this reason we need to remain extra vigilant and stay patient to avoid getting back into a stop/start situation for our businesses.
"Better to pause now, with some restrictions remaining in place than to risk undoing much of the hard work to date.
“The government has made a package of measures available around rapid response, supervised testing and additional compliance capacity, which we will deploy when and where necessary.”
They added: “We want to see the return of face coverings in school settings for the remainder of term and to support managing all events consistently, learning from the use of rapid flow tests, crowd capacity and the protocols in place to allow them to go ahead safely.
“The response of everyone in our region to the challenges of the pandemic has been amazing.
“The North East also has a stronger network of volunteers and community champions to support those most in need and people have demonstrated resilience which has got us this far – and for that we thank you all.
“But the pandemic is clearly not over, nor is it in a place where we can “live” with it.
"Most of the infections we are seeing are among the younger population and those older adults who have not been vaccinated or have only had their first dose.
“We urge everyone who has had their first dose to get fully protected by getting their second jab as soon as they are invited, while we implore those who have been invited but yet to take up their first vaccination dose to do so immediately.
“Please remember – hands, face, space and fresh air. Get your jabs, test and self-isolate where required.
"Working together and using all the tools at our disposal, we can beat the virus.”