"We must stay cautious" message as whole of North East is made an "Enhanced Response Area" by Government
The whole of the North East has been named as an "Enhanced Response Area" by the Government due to the rise of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases across the region.
There are no new restrictions or local lockdowns associated with this and we are in discussions with the Government about what kind of support the Borough may receive.
We expect the focus of any such support here to be on encouraging vaccine take-up, particularly among groups and in areas where take-up is lower, and slowing the rising infection rates.
The "Enhanced Response Area" status will take effect from Monday (July 26). It will last for an initial five weeks and will be reviewed by Government after four weeks.
The announcement comes at a time when the region has the highest infection rates in the country.
This is a big reminder that the situation is serious and we all need to continue to do our bit to get infection rates down.
Restrictions may have lifted but now is a time for caution as we learn to live with the virus. It has not gone away.
Now is also a time to be considerate and respectful of the fact that some people are feeling more anxious than others about the easing of restrictions.
What are the rates?
For the week ending July 18 our COVID-19 dashboard shows the North East rate stood at 951.7 new cases per 100,000 people.
That compares with the national rate of 523.0 per 100,000.
In our Borough the rate over that same period was 1,192 per 100,000, compared with a Tees Valley average of 1,247 per 100,000.
We also saw another big jump in cases, with 2,352 new cases recorded in the week ending July 18, compared with 1,407 cases the previous week.
What can people do to help get rates down?
It's clear that we need to keep on protecting each other to ensure that the sacrifices we've all made over the last 16 months do not go to waste.
There is still the risk that people - especially those who have not been vaccinated -will become ill and hospital admissions are still rising.
The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. It means you are much less likely to become ill.
And please make sure you get both doses.
Walk-in vaccination sessions are on offer across the Tees Valley, including a number of upcoming sessions in Billingham and in Wellington Square.
It's pleasing to see so many people wearing a face covering on public transport and in busy indoor spaces, regardless of the rules changing.
That will help us protect each other.
So will choosing to meet people outdoors, keeping a safe distance, and ventilating indoor spaces.
As ever, the simple act of washing your hands will help reduce your infection risk.
And testing is still a vital tool to help track and prevent the spread of the virus.
We're continuing to ask people to have regular tests.
Rules on self-isolation are still in place, so it's vital you stay at home for the full 10 days if you're contacted by Test and Trace or are alerted by the COVID-19 app.
It's been a gruelling last year or so, but we really need to stay vigilant as we learn to live with the virus.
Thank you as always for your continued sacrifices and support.