Leaders plead with families to 'live by the rules' as North East aims to come out of Lockdown 2 in as low a tier of covid restrictions as possible

Families have been urged to ‘live by the rules’ to give the North East the best chance of recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

But the promising figures were ‘overtaken by events’ at the weekend, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown, expected to come into force from Thursday, November 5, and last until early December at least.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council and chairman of the Leadership Board, said: “Council leaders have been working around the clock with ministers and civil servants to keep us in tier two, but clearly we will have to work with any national lockdown restrictions the government imposes.”

Cllr Iain Malcolm and Patrick Melia (l-r)

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Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council and deputy head of paid service at the North East Combined Authority (NECA), said: “Our concern is that as we come out of this in December we come out in as low a tier as possible.”

He added: “That means the more our population live by the rules, the better our chance of coming out in a lower tier, which is better for the economy.

“We were successful with the restrictions in September in controlling the infection rate and we feel we can be successful coming out of this to keep infection rates down if [we are given] the tools and resources.

“We can work with our communities to keep infection rates down in the longer term.”

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Sunderland City Council chief executive Patrick Melia.

Mr Melia was speaking at a meeting of the combined authority’s Leadership Board on November 3, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

North East leaders had expected to spend this week negotiating with government ministers over future regional restrictions.

A steadying in the infection rate had provided a glimmer of hope they might avoid tougher measures, although concerns remained at the ‘high plateau’ numbers were stuck at.Instead, regional bosses will now turn their focus to arguing for more cash to test and trace services and protect care homes in the hope that the virus can be suppressed even after any national measures are lifted.

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Cllr Iain Malcolm