NORTH East leaders have shown solidarity with Greater Machester after Tier 3 restrictions 'imposed' on the area - and urged the Government not to force the region down the same path.

The leaders of local authorities in County Durham, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and Northumberland - known as the LA7 - have today issued a statement calling on the government to engage with them.

They say there are signs of coronavirus cases levelling off thanks to the collective efforts of the North East and said people must keep doing their bit to help slow the rate of infections.

The joint statement says: "We would like to thank everyone for their continued co-operation and ask - please keep doing your bit.

"We know it is difficult not to be able to physically see and hold loved ones, to enjoy a night out with friends at the theatre or down the pub but by not mixing households and following the rules you are making a difference.

"We are disappointed that Greater Manchester has had Tier 3 imposed upon it without agreed economic support and we urge the government to engage with us and look at the local evidence before forcing us down the same path.

"Our Public Health directors are working closely together and across the region we are seeing early indications of a levelling off in cases.

"NHS colleagues are working very hard to keep services open and are reporting no significant pressures, however we urge everyone to use NHS services appropriately.

"We continue to engage with government and will demonstrate how the latest data shows the restrictions we introduced across the region on September 18 – ahead of the national tiering system – appear to be having an impact.

"It has only been possible to slow the virus because the overwhelming majority continue to do their bit.

"Reducing social contact remains key to stopping the spread of Covid so we urge everyone to continue to wash their hands regularly for 20 seconds; wear face coverings on public transport, in shops and everywhere they are legally required; stay 2 metres apart from anyone not within your household or bubble – Hands. Face. Space.

"Doing so gives us the best chance of avoiding stricter restrictions. This will form just part of our engagement with government. We will also continue to lobby strongly for a realistic package of economic support to be available for those businesses trading in Alert Level 2 and as well as for those forced to close in Alert Level 3.

"Our local test and trace teams continue to perform well and we urgently require the resources being poured into testing nationally to be devolved as soon as practical to give control of the NHS Track and Test system to our public health experts.

"It is imperative we don’t let our guard slip or lure ourselves into a false sense of security just because we are seeing a slowly improving picture. To do so would undo all your hard work.

"The past few weeks has seen the North East united with public, businesses, residents and communities all working together to tackle the pandemic. We all need to keep doing our bit. Thank You."

The statement is signed by Cllr Nick Forbes,Leader of Newcastle City Council; Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council; Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader of Northumberland County Council; Norma Redfearn Mayor of North Tyneside Council; Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council; Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council; Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council; Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor; Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner.