North East leaders urge people to obey rules so Tier 3 restrictions can be eased

Political leaders in the North East of England urged people to stick to the coronavirus rules so the region can move on from the toughest Tier 3 restrictions as quickly as possible.

The whole of the North East, from south of the Scottish Border to the county line with North Yorkshire, has been placed in Tier 3.

Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham, known as the North East Combined Authority (NECA), has 318 cases per 100,000, although the figure was stable or falling, the Government said.

Coronavirus – Thu Nov 5, 2020
The national lockdown saw streets in Newcastle almost empty (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The NECA has “very high” case rates in over 60s at 256 per 100,000 and NHS admissions remained high this month.

In the Tees Valley, which comprises Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Darlington, and which has a population of around 700,000 cases were falling but remained high at 390 per 100,000.

Positivity also remained very high at 13.3%, as was the case rate in over 60s at 292 per 100,000.

NHS admissions in the area have remained high in November, the Government said.

In a joint statement, the NECA council leaders said the national four-week lockdown had not “counted for nothing” and people’s efforts had saved lives and protected health services.

They said: “We must continue to work together and by doing so we will put ourselves in a position to move to a tier which offers more of the freedoms we so dearly miss.

“Let’s keep going so we can once again meet up and socialise with our families and friends, help more of our local businesses reopen their doors to customers or so that we can cheer on our beloved sports teams.”

Ben Houchen, Tory Tees Valley elected mayor, said: “This is not where we want to be.”

But he said people must follow the restrictions so they could be eased sooner, adding: “If the new rules are not followed the virus will continue to spread and we will have to spend even longer under these restrictions – something nobody wants to happen.”

Redcar and Cleveland Council Leader Councillor Mary Lanigan was disappointed the borough was in Tier 3.

She said: “The ongoing restrictions put a huge strain on people’s lives and threaten the prosperity of our borough as businesses cannot trade freely or plan with any confidence for the future.

“This is particularly acute in our brilliant hospitality sector, which cannot prosper at the busiest time of the year.

“However, it has been apparent for a number of weeks that the infection rate in Redcar and Cleveland has been too high and we have seen growing numbers of hospitalisations and people continuing to lose their lives to this terrible virus.

“We should never forget that for many families, Covid-19 has meant the loss of a loved one.”

The leader of Hartlepool Council called the system a farce and claimed London boroughs had received “preferential treatment” in avoiding Tier 3.

Dear @MattHancock, please can you explain why these London Boroughs have been spared T3 restrictions? Once again London getting preferential treatment while the North is punished. Maybe test equally in London too & you'll get a real picture. #tiersystem#farcepic.twitter.com/oXimRFrvlC

— Shane Moore (@srmooreuk) November 26, 2020

Shane Moore tweeted: “Dear @MattHancock, please can you explain why these London Boroughs have been spared T3 restrictions?

“Once again London getting preferential treatment while the North is punished.

“Maybe test equally in London too & you’ll get a real picture. #tiersystem #farce”.

And in a further tweet, he added: “Let’s look at the Tees Valley vs London 7-day positivity rate to 22nd November too.

“Virus is just as prevalent in London as up here, only difference is we are testing and identifying it.”

Cumbria, to the West, and North Yorkshire to the South have been placed in Tier 2.

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