As 2020 draws to a close, I am sure many of us will be glad to bid farewell to what has been a challenging and emotional year. Yet, with the first coronavirus vaccinations now being given in our region, it does feel as though there is light at the end of the tunnel and if we continue to follow the guidance hopefully life can begin to return to normal in 2021.

Christmas feels very different this year and Saturday’s announcement about the tightening of restrictions over the festive period will have disappointed many people. It is understandable that people want to connect with friends and relatives after so long apart, but it is important we remain vigilant to protect older and vulnerable members of our communities. 

I know it is not easy at a time when we would traditionally come together but by following the guidelines and the simple rules of ‘Hands, Face, Space’, we can help to reduce the transmission of the virus.

In recent weeks, Durham County Council, together with local authorities representing Sunderland, Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside, launched a campaign to thank people for everything they are doing to limit the spread of the virus. You may have seen the television adverts featuring people from across the region talking about the sacrifices we have all made as well as looking forward to once again doing the things we love.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you once again. Everyone who is following the guidance is helping to save lives and we are incredibly grateful for your continuing efforts.

Furthermore, many of you have gone above and beyond this with acts of selflessness and generosity that are making a positive difference to our communities. In addition to all of our amazing key workers; charities, community groups, schools, businesses and individuals of all ages have reached out to those in need in poignant and innovative ways.

Community spirit has always been strong in County Durham, but in 2020, it has proven a real force for good in an incredibly difficult year. This is one part of 2020 I hope stays with us forever.

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.