COUNCILS in the North-East say they have no plans for local lockdowns amid a row over access to testing data.

Four areas in the North-East and North Yorkshire –Redcar and Cleveland, Sunderland, Gateshead and York – have hit back at reports that they could be in line for local lockdowns.

Data revealed yesterday showed there were 0.7 cases per 100,000 people in Redcar and Cleveland, rising to 1.8 in Sunderland, 3.5 in Gateshead and 6.7 in York

In Leicester, where a local lockdown has been imposed, there were 135 cases per 100,000 people. 

It comes amid a row over local authorities having access to all testing data.

The first local lockdown was announced this week in Leicester, where public officials have criticised a delay in accessing information on testing outside hospitals, known as "pillar two" data, which it said it was given on Thursday.

Public Health England publishes a UK-wide figure for Covid-19 cases every day, which includes tests from hospitals and those processed by commercial laboratories, including samples taken at home.

However, daily figures for local authorities only include the new cases from hospital tests.


Information from Public Health England on 'pillar one' testing from hospitals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament yesterday that all national test data is being shared with local authorities.

On Tuesday, Kevan Jones, Mary Foy and Grahame Morris, the Labour MPs for County Durham, wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock to ask for the data to be released to Durham County Council, saying that without timely information, it would be "impossible" to respond to local spikes.

Last night, Durham County Council confirmed it received the information "recently" , following requests for it to be released.

Gateshead Council confirmed it had been given access to postcode level data yesterday.

Alice Wiseman, Gateshead's director of public health, said its most recent data shows the number of new cases recorded has reduced in the past fortnight from six to two and local lockdown was not being considered.

She added: "This reduction mirrors the overall downward trend in numbers of positive cases in Gateshead which started in late April. It is unclear which data source has been used in today’s media coverage claiming Gateshead is a place where cases are increasing.

“We are asking residents to help us keep these figures low by maintaining a 2m distance from people not in their household, washing their hands regularly for 20 seconds and if they display symptoms of a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change to their sense of smell or taste, to isolate immediately and call 111.

“In addition, we have published our Covid-19 local outbreak control plan which focuses on protecting the health of Gateshead's residents by preventing localised Covid-19 outbreaks, responding quickly where an outbreak is identified, and providing support for complex settings, communities, and individuals where required.”

A spokesperson for Redcar and Cleveland Council confirmed the authority had figures on infections being collected through hospitals, as well as the regional test site at the Middlehaven centre, in Middlesbrough, a mobile unit at Kirkleatham Museum, near Redcar, and home testing.

He said: “Overall figures in our borough remain relatively low and we have no plans for a local lockdown. However, we remain vigilant and our response will change if the situation changes. We continue to urge people to remain socially distanced, wash hands regularly and follow all government advice.”

Councillor Steve Kay, member for health, housing and welfare, said: “We can reassure the public that we have no current plans for a ‘local lockdown’ as current information shows the infection rate in the borough continues to be under control with the number of new cases remaining steady and the overall number of cases remaining relatively low compared to other areas.

“However, preventing the spread of this awful disease remains our priority and if the situation changes our response will change too."

“We must all remain vigilant and stick to current guidance including social distancing, washing our hands regularly and following government advice. We urge everyone to follow the rules and stay safe.”

Sunderland Council told the Northern Echo it had been given sight fof the data on the understanding it would not be shared.

A spokesperson said: "While the city council has sight of this national data, this on the strict understanding that the information is not shared. We can however confirm that these additional results are not causing any concern at the moment.

"The council has asked both Public Health England and Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) if it can share all of this information with partners and local communities in the interests of transparency. We are currently awaiting a response."

Gillian Gibson, Sunderland’s director of public health, said: "We are aware of misleading and alarmist reports which have been circulating over the last couple of days suggesting that Sunderland is on a list of 36 areas ‘at risk’ of a local lockdown.

"We would like to reassure residents that based on current national and local data these reports couldn’t be further from the truth.

"In fact national published data shows that there have only been two new cases of Covid 19 between 6 and 23 June.

"New Public Health England figures also show that for the week ending 21 June, there were just 1.8 recorded cases of Covid per 100,000 people in Sunderland.

"This ranks Sunderland at 125th out of 150 upper tier local authorities, and one of the lowest rates in England and Wales.

"The city council is continuing to monitor all nationally and locally available data to give it an accurate and updated picture of the number of Covid cases.

"And, although we are not allowed to do so at the moment, we are seeking to share more of this data with partners and local communities.

"However we can confirm that figures are not causing any concern currently.

"While it is vital that we all continue to observe social distancing, and good hand hygiene and stay at home as much as possible, we are not expecting a local lockdown as long as people continue to behave sensibly."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “All councils in England now have the ability to access testing data, right down to an individual and postcode level.

“PHE has already been providing this data to directors of public health in the event of an outbreak so that they can take all necessary action to curb the spread.”

Cases per 100,000 population

Stockton: 14.7

North Yorkshire: 13.8

Middlesbrough: 7.8

York: 6.7

Cumbria: 5.8

Newcastle: 5.3

County Durham: 5.1

North Tyneside: 4.9

Darlington: 4.7

Hartlepool: 4.3

Gateshead: 3.5

Northumberland: 3.4

Sunderland 1.8

Redcar and Cleveland: 0.7

South Tyneside: 0.0