THE public has been warned to make “every effort” to keep coronavirus cases low in December, in order to allow families to gather at Christmas.

That is the claim of a national health director, who suggested tougher restrictions could be needed either side of Christmas if curbs are to be eased over the festive period.

Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser to the Government’s Covid-19 response, said that in order for people to be able to meet over Christmas, cases would need to be as low as possible to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.

North East leaders have repeated calls for people to reduce social contact and following the rules amid concern at Covid infection rates, with just 14 days until lockdown is due to end.

A statement read: “It is about saving lives and protecting the NHS to ensure it is not over run and able to cope with the demands on our services.

“We need your support to ensure that all our services remain open and safe.”

In response to questions over the relaxation of lockdown rules over Christmas, Hexham's MP Guy Opperman urged constituents to remain vigilant.

"I want us all to be able to spend time with close family and have as normal a Christmas as possible," he said.

"However, it is simply too early for these decisions to be made. We are currently half way through national restrictions, and we will need to see what impact these have, and take decisions based on infection rates closer to Christmas.

"To maximise our chances of being able to spend time together over the festive period, we all need to remember the basics - stay at home as much as possible, wash your hands, wear a face covering, and keep apart from others."