Restaurants, bars and non-essential shops will be able to reopen from Monday as England advances to the next stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
North East leaders representing Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham told residents and businesses to ‘enjoy the freedoms available to us responsibly’.
The statement said: “As the next step of the roadmap out of lockdown comes into effect, we’re asking residents across the North East to be cautious as we are once again able to visit shops, personal care premises, indoor leisure facilities and outdoor hospitality settings.
“From Monday, these businesses will be able to reopen their doors, offering a welcome boost to employers and to the emotional and physical wellbeing of all our communities.”
The appeal for caution comes after it emerged this week that Newcastle had seen England’s second highest week-on-week rise in infection rates in the seven days to April 2, jumping from 41.6 to 58.8 new weekly cases per 100,000 people.
This increase was due to an outbreak at the Novotel Newcastle Airport hotel, in Kingston Park, as opposed to a more widespread uptick in infections.
The hotel, which is being used to provide temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, reported 36 positive Covid cases among employees, security staff, and residents.
And leaders warn that with the easing of restrictions come more opportunities for the virus to spread.
They added: “As with previous steps taken to ease restrictions, we must all remember that by reintroducing freedoms into our lives, we are also presenting further opportunities for Covid-19 to spread.
“Everyone has made sacrifices in the fight against the virus, and by doing so we have collectively reduced the spread of Covid-19 and brought infection rates right down.
“However, the virus is still with us and in all likelihood we will have to learn to live with it for a considerable time yet.”
Hair salons, barbers, gyms and leisure centres will also be opening their doors on Monday, which means people will be mixing indoors.
Leaders have urged people socialising not to be wreckless and said regular hand washing and face coverings remain essential in the fight against Covid.
The latest coronavirus infection figures, from PA Media, show that in Newcastle the rate of infection from the seven day period leading up to April 4 was 45.2 per 100,000 or 137 new cases, down from 52.5 or 159 new cases in the previous seven days.
In Gateshead the rate was 36.1, or 73 new cases, a drop from 42.1, or 85 new cases. In Sunderland the rate was, 34.2, or 95 new cases, and the previous week’s rate was 59.1, or 164 new cases.
Meanwhile, in South Tyneside, the rate was 29.1, or 44 new cases, a drop from 40.4, or 61 new cases. In North Tyneside the latest rate is, 39.9, 83 new cases, and last week’s was 54.3, which equated to 113 new cases.
In County Durham, the latest figures show a rate 35.7, or 189 new cases with previous data being at 55.1, or 292 new cases. In Northumberland, the latest rate is 25.4, or 82, new cases and the previous week was 47.5 or 153 new cases.
Businesses, that have been hit hard by the past 12 month’s series of extended closures, also have a part to play say the politicians.
The statement said that lengthy closures had been ” incredibly tough” on local businesses, but said they and their staff had a responsibility to follow the rules.
Leaders stressed that vaccinations do not mean people can forget their responsibilities.
The statement added : “The Government announced the roadmap would only stick to schedule if it was safe to do so. So far, it has been able to proceed as planned, but if the next steps are to go ahead as hoped, we must all stay vigilant, stay safe, and enjoy the freedoms available to us sensibly and responsibly.”