The North-East will come out of the latest national lockdown in a worse position than when it went into it unless urgent action is taken, leaders have warned.

Council bosses, including Northumberland County Council’s Conservative leader, Coun. Glen Sanderson, the North of Tyne mayor and Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) have spoken out amid rising Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalisations and outbreaks among vulnerable people.

In a statement, they urged residents to not let their guard slip – with an increase in case numbers blamed on crowded scenes in town centres in the days before lockdown began and people flocking to the North-East’s beauty spots since the four-week restrictions came into force.

The North-East went into the second national shutdown as the only part of England where the number of new virus cases was flattening. That sparked hopes that the region could take greatest advantage of the restrictions lifting after December 2, with residents able to enjoy greater freedom.

But latest figures have shown infection rates on the rise in Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham.

Leaders from each area have now pleaded with residents to strictly adhere to the lockdown rules, in the hope that cases will drop in the next two weeks. They wish to ensure that the region will not be subjected to the strictest local rules once lockdown ends and the Government’s tier system is reimposed following the end of the national guidelines.

Councils have urged people to “take the virus seriously or risk tougher restrictions continuing” and to only leave their home for very limited purposes, such as shopping for basic necessities or for education and work.

Authorities welcomed the positive news of a potential vaccine success and work on local testing.