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Nearly half of North Easterners still concerned about Covid-19 but feel hopeful about the future as new campaign launches

Published June 24, 2021 9.11am


New independent research commissioned by the seven North East councils reveals how people across the region currently feel about Covid-19.

Amanda Keep North East Open

Amanda Healy at the campaign launch

While 44% of us are concerned about the seriousness of the Covid situation in our local area, only 1 in 5 questioned believe that the situation will be worse than it is now in 6 months time - showing cautious optimism among North Easterners.

The research, conducted the week ending 1 June, involved a representative sample of residents from County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Currently, 28% of North Easterners think there's a very or fairly high risk of catching the virus and only 12% feel restrictions are being relaxed too slowly - showing strong support for pausing the next stage on the Roadmap until 19 July. With 75% of the region saying that, even with restrictions relaxing in recent weeks, they don't want to rush into doing things, it's clear that people across the region are willing to be patient and don't want to progress out of lockdown too quickly.

Key findings include:

●     Just over half (54%) of the region feel that in 6 months from now, the Covid situation will be better than it is now - showing some optimism among North Easterners.

●     75% of North Easterners agree that even with restrictions relaxing over recent weeks, they don't want to rush into doing things.

●     72% are worried that the pandemic restrictions will have a long-lasting negative effect on local jobs and the economy.

●     64% are worried that there will be further outbreaks of Covid-19 over the next few months.

●     95% of the region think it's important to follow the guidance in order to get Covid under control so life can get back to normal

●     90% think it's important to follow the guidance to help keep local businesses open

●     Only 1 in 5 (20%) of people in our region think that the situation will be worse in six months time.

The results have informed a major communications campaign which launches today (Thursday 24 June), backed by the seven local councils and supported by Northumbria and County Durham Local Resilience Forums (LRF) which includes councils, third sector, NHS, blue light services and public transport bodies.

The campaign, featuring businesses from across the North East, urges people to continue to do all they can to keep the virus at bay so that the North East can remain open. It comes at a time when, like many places in the country, the region is seeing a surge in the number of Covid infections from the Delta variant, which is known to be more transmissible than previous strains of the virus.

Commenting on behalf of the seven North East Local Authorities, chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health North East and Director of Public Health for County Durham, Amanda Healy said; "I want to thank the people of the North East for all they have done to curb the spread of the virus in our region over many months.

"While the Prime Minister has pressed pause on the final phase of reopening, this new research shows that the majority of residents will support the move, because 75% of them remain cautious about rushing back into doing things again. I do believe that by pausing now, ultimately we can get back to where we want to be more quickly in the longer-term, rather than rushing and risking more hospitalisations, and ultimately more deaths and lockdowns.

"We want to keep our region open where it is safe and possible to do so. Waiting a few more weeks to fully unlock will allow more people who are at risk of becoming ill from Covid, to receive both doses of the vaccine - our best protection against the virus. In fact, at current rates nearly 10 million second doses of the vaccine could be administered over that time - giving high levels of protection against the Delta variant.

Slow the spread

"Meanwhile, younger age groups, who have the highest rates of infection, will have the benefit of one jab if they take up the offer. As well as providing some protection to them, this will help slow the spread of the virus.

"We need to learn to live alongside Covid and there are some simple steps we can all take to support this, which will allow us to keep the region open and businesses and organisations operational.

"Get both doses of the vaccine when you are called. Follow the rules on meeting others. Work from home if you can. And isolate and get a test if you have symptoms or test positive via the Lateral Flow Test. That way the North East can remain open and we can return to enjoying the things we love most, with the people we love most."

Businesses and organisations from across the region are supporting Keep the North East Open, with many starring in the campaign.

Rhiannon Hiles, Chief Executive of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, said: "It's fantastic to be able to welcome visitors back to Beamish after a really difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have COVID-19 Secure measures in place across the museum and it's great to hear how delighted people are to be back at Beamish.

"Beamish is a charity and we rely on visitors for 95 per cent of our income, so having to close the museum three times during the pandemic has had a major impact and we're so grateful for everyone's support.

"We wanted to be part of this campaign to thank local people for following the guidance and for all they are doing to curb COVID infection rates in our area."