THE tragic death toll in our region as a result of the Covid pandemic has been laid bare as today marks one year since the first national lockdown.

Leaders from across the region have paid tribute to those who have been lost since the outbreak began, gripping entire communities in its wake.

Official figures now place the coronavirus death toll across the North-East and North Yorkshire at 6,942 in the past year, many of which took place after March 23, 2020.

Today, the nation will come together at midday to hold a one minute's silence in memory of family members, friends and colleagues who have died during the pandemic.

But leaders have reflected on the past year, telling The Northern Echo that they share their condolences with the thousands of families affected.

The Northern Echo:

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health, said: "This has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone across County Durham.

"Our thoughts and condolences go to all those who have lost loved ones.

"As we reflect on the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown, they remain very much in our memory – it is also a time to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by everyone across the county in the fight against coronavirus.

"Residents have gone to remarkable lengths to protect themselves, their loved ones and our most vulnerable, and we are truly grateful for the way in which communities have united to support each other through the restrictions."

In a joint-statement, Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council and Councillor Kevin Nicholson, Cabinet member for Health and Housing, paid tribute to those who had died following the outbreak.

They said: “The anniversary of the first lockdown is an important time to reflect on the past year, take stock and reaffirm our commitment to beating Covid-19.

"Everyone has been affected by Covid, whether they’ve had it themselves or suffered the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

"In Darlington, we will be planting memorial trees to those we’ve lost and we’ll be sharing more details about this in the coming weeks.

“We’ll be joining in with the national minute’s silence and encourage others to do the same, in a Covid-secure way."

The official figures from Public Health England show that up until March 5, 2021, almost 7,000 people in our region had now died with Covid.

The figures for each area: County Durham - 1,466, Sunderland - 821, Northumberland - 759, Newcastle - 525, Gateshead - 490, Stockton - 485, South Tyneside - 460, North Tyneside - 449, Middlesbrough - 379, Redcar and Cleveland - 324, Darlington - 268, Hartlepool - 264, Hambleton - 163, Richmondshire - 89.

The Northern Echo: The new vaccination site at Middlesbrough Riverside Stadium Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTThe new vaccination site at Middlesbrough Riverside Stadium Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

But in a sign that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that the region was beginning its fight back against the virus, latest vaccination figures showed more than 1m people in the North-East and North Yorkshire had now had at least their 1st dose of the Covid jab.

SEE MORE: The latest number of people in your North-East postcode who have had the Covid vaccine

Cllr Scott and Cllr Nicholson of Darlington Borough Council later urged everyone to remain vigilant, following the restrictions and take up the vaccine when offered.

They said: “With so many millions of people across the country now having had their first dose of vaccine, it feels as though the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, but we mustn’t take our eye off the ball – we urge everyone in Darlington to stay vigilant, keep following the rules and, of course, get the vaccine when you are offered it.

Echoing comments on the vaccine rollout but paying tribute to a "heart-breaking" amount of loss, the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “In the last 12-months the coronavirus has touched everyone’s lives, the amount of loss has been heart-breaking, the impact on businesses and livelihoods unprecedented in modern times.

“Whilst we have been tested we did not break. Communities pulled together, we supported out doctors, nurses, teachers, truck drivers and supermarket workers who have all worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep out hospitals running, our schools open and food on the shelves.

“We’ve been through tough times before as a region, but we have always come back bigger, better and stronger than ever before and I am confident that the people of Hartlepool, Teesside and Darlington will do so again.” 

The Northern Echo: Spennymoor town centre during lockdown Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTSpennymoor town centre during lockdown Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

A joint-statement issued by councils including Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, Newcastle, South and North Tyneside, the progress of the vaccine rollout was last night congratulated.

In their statement, they said: "We’ve established community testing centres and programmes, which will play a key part in reopening our economy.  

"We’ve worked collaboratively with health partners to create vaccination centres and we’ve been preparing for the future, living with Covid with fewer restrictions in place.

"The progress with vaccinations has been remarkable. Safe and effective jabs are already reducing infections and saving lives.

"And with approximately half of all adults having received at least a first dose, hopefully we’re on the way to our loved ones and communities being fully protected.

"We urge everyone who has been offered to take up the vaccination – it is the best way to protect yourself and others from this deadly virus."