FAMILIES should not mix together this Christmas - that's the opinion of one Tyne Valley county councillor.

Coun. Ian Hutchinson, who represents Haltwhistle, has seen cases in his ward sky-rocket in recent weeks.

He believes that the situation across the country has changed since the Prime Minister announced restrictions would be relaxed over the Christmas period to allow three households to get together.

Hexham Courant:

Coun. Hutchinson said: "My personal opinion is no, people shouldn't mix.

"I think the rules will be abused. To be safe, I think people should stat at home, have their Christmas with their household and enjoy it - and have a big party with their family when this is over, and just enjoy the day ourselves.

"It's unfortunate if you're by yourself, but to me you're far better being like that rather than getting coronavirus and not seeing any more Christmases."

Speaking to BBC news on Tuesday, Northumberland County Council's director of Public Health, Liz Morgan, attributed a rise in cases in the Haltwhistle area to to outbreaks at a workplace and a local secondary school.

The Courant understands that some staff at Plenmeller's bottle factory have been sent home until after Christmas, and only certain orders are being completed.

When asked whether most staff had been sent home, a spokesman for Berry said: "We can confirm that the plant is still running to enable us to meet essential customer orders.

"We are continuing to operate in strict accordance with the Government’s Covid-19 protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees.”

Berry employs approximately 170 employees in Plenmeller.

Coun. Hutchinson added: "I will be concerned until the number of cases go down to zero, but we're moving in the right direction now. Hopefully, the numbers will keep coming down."