LA7 leaders back delay in lifting covid restrictions amid rising Delta variant cases in North East
North East councils have backed Boris Johnson’s decision to delay the end of lockdown, amid rapidly rising Covid infection rates in the region.
The Prime Minister announced on Monday, June 14, the final stage of relaxing lockdown restrictions would not go ahead as planned on June 21, but would continue until July 19.
That delay has been blamed on the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, which has become dominant in the UK over recent weeks.
While the fast-spreading strain has not yet been as prevalent in the North East as some hotspots, particularly in the North West, it has now caused a rapid spike in cases here – with Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland all now reporting infection rates above 100 cases per 100,000 people.
The region’s council leaders said on Tuesday morning that the rising infections had not yet caused a big increase in deaths of hospitalisations, but that ending lockdown next week would “risk undoing much of the hard work to date”.
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, but keeping measures to reduce social contact and vaccinating more people will hopefully make the link between cases and those requiring hospital treatment even weaker.
“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 monitored and 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, which does not involve additional funding, around rapid response, supervised testing and additional compliance capacity, which we will deploy when and where necessary.”
The statement was signed by the leaders of South Tyneside, Sunderland, Northumberland, Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle and North Tyneside councils – plus North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.
The group said they had “tried to put political differences aside” during the pandemic and called for extra government help to “ensure fairness” in the rollout of Covid tests and vaccines.
They also called for face coverings to be made mandatory in schools for the rest of term and urged people to socialise outside rather than indoors, as well as coming forward to get a vaccine as soon as you are offered one.