Stark COVID-19 warning from region’s Leaders

Statement on behalf of the leaders of the seven North East local authorities and the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

"As leaders of the seven North East local authorities we are deeply concerned at the increasing number of positive coronavirus cases we are seeing across the region, particularly among young adults.

"Our councils have been working hard to protect our communities, keep frontline services running, supporting our most vulnerable residents and helping businesses reopen but we must not be complacent.

"We all have to do our bit and to play our part if we are to prevent a potential second wave. The impact that would have on our health service and the possibility of an economically-damaging lockdown would be devastating.

"We ask that individuals protect themselves to protect others and to protect our region as well as call on all businesses to make sure their premises and operations are COVID-secure.

"Average cases per day across our local authority areas have doubled in little more than a week and are averaging around 80 per day in the most recent figures – we expect that to go higher in coming days.

"Social distancing is still the best defence we have, along with washing hands for 20 seconds and covering our faces when we are asked and required to do so.

"Our Public Health teams have been working tirelessly to track and trace every case but there have been a number of incidents over the last few days which make this task even more difficult.

"People who have symptoms or are asked to do so by the Health Protection teams must book a test and self-isolate until they have their results.

"Don’t assume, if you are a contact, that a negative test means you are OK – it doesn’t; you could be incubating the virus. If you are asked to self-isolate, it is really important that you do so whatever your test status at the time.

"We have seen cases where individuals with symptoms have had a test, then gone out and infected others before getting their results – reckless and selfish behaviour.

"Businesses also need to comply – that means recording all the information of customers so they can be contacted quickly if there is an outbreak, managing social distancing and ensuring a strict hygiene regime. Failure to do so will leave us with no alternative than to shut those premises down.

"A significant minority believe it is OK to have house parties, hold events with unregulated crowds, ignore the rules – well it isn’t. Household transmission remains the biggest danger. By not following the guidance, advice and legislation you are at greater risk of spreading the virus to your own family, which as we have seen can lead to tragic consequences.

"None of us yet know the long-term health impact of COVID-19, while the full social and economic consequences are also yet to play out.

"What we do know is infection rates are rising quickly. We cannot allow it to get out of control. Please work with us and do your bit to keep our great region safe."

Cllr Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council

Cllr Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council

Cllr Simon Henig, Durham County Council

Cllr Martin Gannon, Gateshead Council

Mayor Norma Redfearn, North Tyneside Council

Cllr Glen Sanderson, Northumberland County Council

Cllr Iain Malcom, South Tyneside Council

Mayor Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Combined Authority