North East leaders' rousing message as region prepares to mark anniversary of covid lockdown

North East leaders have hailed the efforts of everyone in the region as we prepare to mark one year since the first national lockdown began.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 12:33 pm
A rainbow tribute left to the NHS

Tuesday, March 23 will be the first anniversary of Boris Johnson’s announcement of sweeping covid restrictions which changed lives as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the LA7 group of North East councils, made up of Sunderland, South Tyneside, Northumberland, County Durham, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead, have released a joint statement in what they call “a significant week in our fight against Covid-19”.

It reads: “A year ago when the first lockdown was announced, no one could imagine then how it would impact on all our lives.

“Tomorrow, March 23, we will all pause at noon in a moment of silent reflection while monuments will be lit up across the region in memory of and in tribute to all those who have lost their lives to Covid.

“The year that has passed has been long and challenging. We’ve lost so many family and friends. We’ve been unable to embrace loved ones for large periods, businesses have ceased trading and countless jobs have been lost.

“What has not changed is our desire to beat Covid-19 and reclaim our lives. Our communities have united like never before by following strict impositions on our routines and coming together to ensure relatives and neighbours confined to their homes have been able to access food and other essential provisions.”

The leaders pointed to the massive undertakings in the North East to support individuals, businesses and communities left struggling as the effects of the virus and restrictions took hold.

“Collectively we’ve supported North East jobs and businesses by distributing hundreds of millions of pounds in grants and loans,” they said.

"We’ve supported schools to open for vulnerable children and children of key workers, while they in turn supported parents and carers in educating our young people from their homes. We continue to support schools now they have fully reopened to all pupils.

“We’ve established community testing centres and programmes, which will play a key part in reopening our economy. We’ve worked collaboratively with health partners to create vaccination centres and we’ve been preparing for the future, living with Covid with fewer restrictions in place.”

But the leaders also look to the future as the vaccination programme presses ahead and hopes remain that the dates set out in the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown will be met.

“The progress with vaccinations has been remarkable. Safe and effective jabs are already reducing infections and saving lives, and with approximately half of all adults having received at least a first dose, hopefully we’re on the way to our loved ones and communities being fully protected,” the LA7 statement reads.

"We urge everyone who has been offered to take up the vaccination – it is the best way to protect yourself and others from this deadly virus.

“As we step forward cautiously, we need to continue to maintain the essential Hands, Face, Space guidance as the ‘stay at home’ instruction is lifted on 29 March, and continue to look after one another.

“Together we have gone through too much to let our guard down now and undo all your hard work. The changing of restrictions can lead to temptation to act as though all is normal. We simply cannot afford to take that risk, whether we have been vaccinated or not.

“We owe it to the NHS and key workers, including those in our own local authorities who have battled so hard to deal with the pandemic on the frontline, to keep following the rules. They have shown public service at its finest. Thank you for all that you continue to do to protect yourself, your communities and the great region we’re all proud to call home.”

The signatories of the statement are:

Cllr Simon Henig CBE, 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   

Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor