IT was welcome to receive an indication from Government last week that the Tees Valley will not be considered for entering the ‘Very High’ Tier 3 of local coronavirus restrictions at this stage.

The data shows the number of cases across the Tees Valley is flattening. This needs to come down further, but it shows if we can keep this up, we can avoid the catastrophic consequences of moving into the highest level of restrictions. It shows that the extremely difficult sacrifices that everyone is making are not in vain.

Our position is constantly being reviewed and I continue to strongly urge everyone in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to follow the rules so that we can get the virus back under control and return to normal as soon as possible.

None of us wants to spend a day longer than is absolutely necessary under these new restrictions, but it would be such a tragedy to waste all our hard work and all the sacrifices we have made so far.

Since parts of our region were first placed into Tier 2 restrictions, I have been in discussions with the Government about financial support for businesses, such as our amazing pubs, bars and restaurants, that are affected by lockdown restrictions, but are not required to close by law.

So I was pleased that the Government stepped up to the plate and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined a major and generous offer to help firms in Tier 2 areas get through the second wave of the pandemic. The support given to businesses across the region has saved hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs, and this fresh support for workers and businesses will save even more.

Locally, I continue to do everything I can to help everyone I represent. My Welcome Back and Back to Business Funds have given financial support to 537 businesses in the hospitality sector, including pubs, bars and restaurants following the national lockdown. My Emergency Apprenticeship Fund has created jobs for 100 young people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, and thanks to the Kickstart scheme, another 415 jobs have also been created.

We’ve also taken another step by offering grants of up to £25,000 for businesses in the culture sector and those focused on visual or performing arts, heritage, film and TV, music or literature.

Of course, it is important we all have something to look forward to when we get through the worst of this pandemic. I was delighted to be able to announce last week flights to Lake Garda from Teesside Airport, with a seven-night break available in September 2021, meaning you can now go Worldwide, Poolside and Lakeside from our fantastic airport.

Also, for the sport-mad people of our region, and I know there are plenty of them, the ballot for tickets is now open for next year’s Rugby League World Cup in England, including the game between the Cook Islands and Tonga at the Riverside Stadium.

The ballot will remain open for applications until November 16, so get applying now for what is a fantastic opportunity to watch world-class sporting talent on our doorstep, as well as the chance to showcase our region to the world!

l Ben Houchen is the directly elected mayor of the Tees Valley