NORTH-East health bosses have warned the danger of Covid-19 rates “spiralling out of control” is “very real.

In a statement released today, North-East directors of public health representing Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham, warned that local hospitals are under “immense pressure.”

The infection rates across the region appeared to have stopped rising, but the officials said it was not clear if they would plateau or start to fall.

People are being urged to stay at home as much as possible to try and drive down infection rates.

 The statement said: “We are seeing that infection rates across the region look to have stopped rising but it is not yet clear if they will plateau – as we saw in October – or fall. Either way, the current rates remain too high for comfort and we need to see further progress.

“People across the region are staying at home and only having essential social contact with others outside their household or support bubble and we thank them for doing so.

 “Our hospitals are still under immense pressure supporting increasing numbers of patients becoming seriously ill, and with the more transmissible variant of the virus now accounting for up to 6 per cent of the current cases, we must still follow the regulations at all times.

“Remarkable progress is being made with the vaccination roll out and many of our most vulnerable residents have received at least their first dose already. However, while huge proportions of the population remain unprotected, the danger of rates spiralling out of control is still very real.

“We must all continue to stay at home except for the permitted exemptions, maintain hand hygiene, social distancing and the use of face coverings and do everything we can to prevent our NHS services from becoming overwhelmed.

“Whether or not tighter restrictions are needed in the future will be decided by Government based on the national picture, but for now, we must carry on staying at home and keep driving infection rates down.”

The statement was made  by Wendy Burke, Director of Public Health, North Tyneside, Amanda Healy, Director Public Health, County Durham, Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health, Gateshead, Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health, Newcastle, Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health, Northumberland, Tom Hall, Director of Public Health, South Tyneside and Gerry Taylor, Director of Public Health, Sunderland.