A STATEMENT has been released after County Durham recorded one of its highest weekly rises in covid cases since the pandemic began.

Latest Public Health England data revealed County Durham saw 2,650 cases in the week to January 3, up by almost 1,200 from the week before.

The figures, which showed how cases had risen by 78.0 per cent in those seven days, prompted fresh warnings for residents to follow national lockdown rules.

READ MORE: Covid infection rate in every area in the North-East and North Yorkshire

Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health at Durham County Council, last night urged residents to follow restrictions in order to "safeguard the NHS" as she explained what is contributing to a spike in cases.

In a statement, she said: "Although County Durham does not have the highest rate of coronavirus infections in the region, we have seen a significant increase in confirmed cases in recent weeks partly caused by a more infectious strain of the virus that is spreading across the UK and following the relaxation of household mixing rules on Christmas Day.

"That is why it is vital we all follow the lockdown rules and stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for us to leave."

READ MORE: What you can and can’t do in the new national lockdown

Ms Healy urged residents to adhere to the national restrictions and "avoid" all contact with those outside households, or support bubbles.

She said: “I know this is challenging, especially for people who live on their own and those juggling childcare and work, but it is essential to protect our most vulnerable, safeguard the NHS and save lives."

Ms Healy, who renewed her call for residents to take Covid tests if showing symptoms, said: “I would like to thank everyone for their efforts so far and to remind you that, unlike during the first lockdown, we now have approved vaccines to help us fight the virus. 

"We are supporting our NHS colleagues to rollout the vaccine programme in the county and hopefully this will allow the return of some freedoms when it is safe to do.

"We also have increased testing capacity so please get tested if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms."

Those who are self-isolating and struggling to access help from family and friends, can contact the virtual community hub, County Durham Together.

The hub can be contacted on 03000 260 260 Monday to Friday, or by email oncommunityhub@durham.gov.uk