A FURTHER lockdown is “almost inevitable” if Covid-19 rates don't fall sharply, a council leader has said.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Leader, Councillor Bob Cook has said with the national lockdown set to end in less than 12 days, it’s deeply worrying to see Covid-19 cases in the Borough continuing to climb.

This week’s Covid-19 dashboard showed there were 849 new cases of Covid-19 for the week ending November 15, a rate of 430.2 per 100,000 population.

That’s a rise on the 811 new cases and rate of 410.9 the previous week.

Mr Cook said: "If we don’t get these rates down, and get them down quickly, I fear it’s almost inevitable the Government will put us into a further local lockdown as soon as the national lockdown ends.

"Nobody wants that to happen.

"It will be devastating for families and devastating for businesses.

"So, we’ve got less than 12 days to dig deep and follow the rules and get our infection rates down.

"It is absolutely critical that we all follow the “hands, face, space” advice and in particular, the rules around mixing with other households.

"We’re now expecting the first batch of 10,000 “lateral flow” tests – which can provide results within an hour – to arrive early next week, followed by approximately 20,000 tests a week.

"The region’s Directors of Public Health are finalising plans to deploy these tests once they arrive.

"We’ve paid out more than £1.1million of business grants to 803 businesses since the start of the second national lockdown and we’re getting these payments out at quite a pace.

"The new local discretionary grants scheme went live today (Friday) and will provide help for businesses that have been severely affected by the national restrictions and are either: A supplier to the Retail, Hospitality or Leisure Industry; or a business in the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure industry that is required to close due to the restrictions, but that does not appear in the rating list with a rateable value, but does have business costs such as rent.

Meanwhile, health bosses in Darlington have used the halfway point in the second national lockdown to thank key workers and call on the public to stay focused in the fight against Covid-19.

Councillor Kevin Nicholson, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Health and Housing issued a joint statement with Penny Spring, the borough’s new Director of Public Health.

They said: “Now we’ve passed the halfway point in this second national lockdown, we thought this was a good time to take a moment to recognise Darlington’s dedicated key workers – doctors, nurses, carers, social workers, supermarket staff and countless others – for all their efforts. Thank you.

“We should also say a big thank you to you, the people of Darlington, for sticking to the rules to ensure our health services are not overwhelmed.

“There have been encouraging noises in recent days and weeks about the possibility of a vaccine. That’s for another day. For now, it is absolutely critical that we all maintain our focus, stick to the rules and fight this virus together.

“Covid cases are continuing to rise, not only here in Darlington, but across the region, and this is likely to continue as autumn gives way to winter. So we need your help, because Covid is still a potent threat to our communities.

“This lockdown is due to end on 2 December – we should know in the coming days what life will be like beyond that date.

“In the meantime, let’s all stick to the rules – wash your HANDS, cover your FACE and make SPACE. Hands – wash them regularly with soap and water. Face – cover your face, especially your nose and mouth, when on public transport or enclosed public places. Space – two metre social distancing.

“If you have symptoms – a new continuous cough, a temperature of 37.8C or higher and a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell – book a Covid test via gov.uk or by calling 119.

"Everyone with symptoms must self-isolate until they get their test result. If it is positive, you must continue self-isolating for 14 days.

“Similarly, you must also get test and self-isolate if asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace. This is not optional.

“If we stick to these rules, as well as any new restrictions that come our way following the end of this second national lockdown, we will give ourselves our best shot at getting through these difficult days and weeks together.

“Come on, Darlington. Play your part. Do your bit. Together, we can keep Darlington on the right track. Thank you and stay safe.”