THE Tees Valley is now getting enhanced support to tackle the spread of coronavirus amid rising infection rates.

Meanwhile, residents have been urged not to mix with other household in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Darlington, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool have been added to the Government's list of places which are getting enhanced support. 

It means there are no additional "local lockdown" restrictions in place  but there is increased  national support, additional resources and extra testing. 

People are not banned from visiting other people's homes but council leaders in Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland have issued statements encouraging residents to limit contact. 

County Durham, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland remain as areas of intervention.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We continue to see an acceleration of Covid-19 cases across the country, especially in the North West and the North East. 

"Working alongside our scientific and public health experts and local leaders, we are prepared to take swift and decisive action to reduce transmission of the virus and protect communities.

“I recognise the burden and impact these additional measures have on our daily lives but we must act collectively and quickly to bring down infections.

“We all have a part to play and I urge everyone to isolate and get a test if you have symptoms, follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace, and always remember ‘hands, face, space’.”

Today, Middlesbrough's rate of infection had risen "significantly", to over 80 per 100,000 of the town's population.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Covid rates are on the rise nationally and Middlesbrough is no different.

"So while it's not time to panic and we're not suggesting anyone locks themselves away, we do need people to think about their contact with others.

"By all means get out and about responsibly, you can still meet friends or family in a restaurant or pub while remembering the rule of six, but we can clearly see that visiting other houses and welcoming guests to your home increases the risk of infection.

"We can't be complacent about Covid. The virus is definitely damaging jobs and people's mental health, but it also poses very serious health risks for the more vulnerable.

"Please wear a mask, please keep two big steps back from others and keep washing your hands. We can work together to bring the rate down."

Middlesbrough Council said more than 80 per cent of recent infection were as a result of contact within homes. 

Positive cases are being recorded in wards across the town, it added, with about 80 per cent of recent infections among people who identified as white British. 

Mark Adams, South Tees joint director of public health, said: "We know that the virus is spreading in households in the vast majority of cases in our area.

"It's clear that the more contact people have with others, the more likely they are to be infected.

 "I would urge people to consider whether their contact with people they don't live with is essential. By limiting your contact with other people, you're protecting yourself but also helping to protect vulnerable people who could be at serious risk from Covid.

"Covid admissions to James Cook Hospital are increasing and sadly more people have required critical care in recent days.

"Middlesbrough was one of the worst affected areas in the earlier stage of the pandemic - we must do all we can to protect our friends, family and neighbours from becoming really ill and stop the virus causing the same disruption, distress and misery as it did earlier this year."

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate along with those they live with. The person with symptoms should book a free test online or by calling 119.

A mobile testing site will return to Newport Community Hub in Middlesbrough town centre from Monday to Friday next week (11am - 3pm). The test centre at Middlehaven is also open from 8am-8pm daily.

Cllr Karen King, deputy leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “The number of positive cases in our borough has risen sharply in recent weeks and most of these have been due to households visiting and socialising with each other.

“We all need to take action to slow the spread of the virus and to keep each other safe.

“While there has been evidence that, nationally, the majority of new cases has been in younger people, this is changing in our borough.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of cases involving elderly and vulnerable residents and keeping these people safe is an absolute priority.

“Please consider not mixing with other households – this would make a real difference in restricting the spread of the virus.

“Also, please remember to maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, wear a mask when required, avoid gatherings, and self-isolate immediately and get a test if you have symptoms.”