Statement from LA7 leaders - "vaccines best chance of preventing Omicron spiralling out of control"
The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant poses a serious threat to our communities.
The number of confirmed cases is doubling roughly every two days, and in reality, it is probably spreading at an even quicker rate than that.
The message from the experts and scientists who have guided us through the pandemic is clear: get your booster.
Vaccines have played an essential role in allowing us to live without restrictions for many months. They have eased the pressure on the NHS and social care, and they have saved countless lives.
The indication is that vaccines, and specifically the ramping up of the booster programme, offer our best chance of preventing Omicron spiralling out of control.
From this week, everyone over the age of 18 will be eligible for a booster, as long as it has been three months since your second dose.
The booster will increase your levels of protection against Covid, and as more people come forward, the greater our protection against Omicron.
Thankfully, there are other tools at our disposal that we know are highly effective at reducing transmission and saving lives.
Steps you can take
We should all wear face coverings when required unless exempt, keep a 1-2 metre distance from others, ventilate enclosed spaces or meet outside, wash our hands thoroughly and often, get tested regularly, and self-isolate when required.
These measures work against all strains of the virus, and if we all do them, they will help keep people as safe as possible.
The NHS, partners, and volunteers have been vaccinating people at an incredible rate for over a year, yet still the demands upon them are increasing. They are now being tasked with ramping up the vaccination programme to get tens of millions of jabs into people's arms in a matter of weeks.
Clearly, they will need support to deliver this and we will do everything in our power to make it as easy as possible to help people get the protection they need.
Omicron is a threat, but we have defences available to us. Our best chance is for everyone to step up, make sure they are fully vaccinated, and take every precaution possible to protect themselves and others and keep the pressure off the NHS and social care.
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