NEARLY half of people living in the North-East are still concerned about Covid-19, according to new research.

Independent research, commissioned by the seven North-East councils, has revealed how people across the region feel about coronavirus with 44 per cent of people still concerned about the seriousness of Covid-19 in the local area.

One in five questioned also believe the situation will be worse than it is now in six months time.

The research, conducted the week ending June 1, involved a representative sample of residents from Northumberland, County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Among the main findings, 28 per cent of people surveyed think there’s a very or fairly high risk of catching the virus and only 12 per cent feel restrictions are being relaxed too slowly - suggesting strong support for pausing the next stage on the Roadmap until July 19.

Meanwhile, 75 per cent of the region said that, even with restrictions relaxing in recent weeks, they don’t want to rush into doing things.

Other key findings include:

● 72 per cent are worried the pandemic restrictions will have a long-lasting, negative effect on local jobs and the economy

● 64 per cent are worried there will be further outbreaks of Covid-19 over the next few months

● 95 per cent think it’s important to follow the guidance in order to get Covid under control so life can get back to normal

● 90 per cent think it’s important to follow the guidance to help keep local businesses open

The results have informed a major communications campaign, which launches today (Thursday, June 24), backed by the seven local authorities and supported by Northumbria and County Durham Local Resilience Forums (LRF) which includes councils, third sector, NHS, blue light services and public transport bodies.

The campaign, featuring businesses from across the North-East, urges people to continue to do all they can to keep the virus at bay so the North-East can remain 'open.'

It comes as the region is seeing a surge in the number of cases of the Delta variant.

Director of Public Health for Northumberland Liz Morgan said: “I want to thank the people of the North-East for all they have done to curb the spread of the virus in our region over many months. It has been a monumental effort which has come at significant personal cost for many.

“While the Prime Minister has pressed pause on the final phase of reopening, this new research suggests residents would largely support the move based on their reservations about rushing back into doing things again.

"I do believe that by pausing now, ultimately we can get back to where we want to be more quickly in the longer-term rather than rushing and risking more hospitalisations and ultimately, more deaths and an even more extended roadmap.

“We want to keep our region open where it is safe and possible to do so. Waiting a few more weeks to unlock further will allow more people who are at risk of becoming ill from this virus to receive both doses of the vaccine - our best protection against the virus. In fact, at current rates nearly 10 million second doses of the vaccine could be administered over that time across England - giving higher levels of protection against the Delta variant.

“Meanwhile, younger age groups, who have the highest rates of infection, will have the benefit of having their first dose and I’d like to encourage everyone to take up that offer. As well as providing some protection to them, this will help slow the spread of the virus. For those who’ve already been offered the vaccine and haven’t yet taken it up, the door is always open.

“We need to learn to live with this virus and there are some simple steps we can all take to support this which will allow us to keep the region open and businesses and organisations operational.

“Get both doses of the vaccine when you are called. Follow the rules on meeting others. Work from home if you can. And isolate and get a test if you have symptoms or test positive via the lateral flow test. That way the North-East can remain open and we can return to enjoying the things we love most, with the people we love most.”

Businesses and organisations from across the region are also supporting Keep the North East Open.