Leaders call for patience while backing roadmap delay
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.
Don't risk undoing hard work
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.
Throughout the pandemic, we as seven local authorities, the North of Tyne mayor and the Police and Crime Commissioners have worked across boundaries to ensure consistent communication, acting as one region.
We have tried to put political differences aside and in return we are seeking further government support to ensure fairness in delivery of the vaccination programme and to undertake additional testing.
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.
Resilience of the region
As we have said on many occasions, the response of everyone in our region to the challenges of the pandemic has been amazing.
We have seen tremendous compliance, innovation in working from home and the creation of Covid secure settings both inside and out by businesses.
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 either 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 are yet to take up their first vaccination dose to do so immediately.
The way through this is continued collective action to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community - to keep the North East open and safe.
It is particularly important that we exercise caution when mixing indoors where the virus can spread more easily - socialising outside remains the safer option.
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.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader, Durham County Council
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader, Gateshead Council
Cllr Nick Forbes CBE, Leader, Newcastle City Council
Norma Redfearn CBE, Elected Mayor, North Tyneside Council
Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader, Northumberland County Council
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader, South Tyneside Council
Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader, Sunderland City Council
Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor
Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner