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Gently does it is the attitude of most on easing; MAJORITY DON'T WANT TO RUSH BACK INTO BUSY LIVES.

Byline: IAN JOHNSON Reporter @IanJohnsonChron

A MAJORITY of people in the North East support a slow easing of lockdown restrictions as almost two thirds worry about further Covid outbreaks in the future.

They are just two of the findings from independent research commissioned by the seven North East councils.

It has informed a major new campaign which was launched which urges people to continue to do all they can to keep the virus at bay so that the North East can remain open - and avoid future lockdowns.

Keep the North East Open comes as infections continue to rise rapidly across the region.

And despite the roaring success of the vaccine programme, the research found 28% of those surveyed think there's a very or fairly high risk of catching the virus and only 12% feel restrictions are being relaxed too slowly - showing strong support for pausing the 'roadmap' until July 19. Some 75% said that, even with restrictions being relaxed in recent weeks, they don't want to rush ahead.

"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 lockdowns," said Eugene Milne, director of public health for Newcastle, on behalf of the LA7 council group.

"We want to keep our region open where it is safe and possible to do so. Waiting a few more weeks to fully unlock will allow more people who are at risk of becoming ill from Covid, to receive both doses of the vaccine - our best protection against the virus."

The research found: | Just over half (54%) of the region feel that in six months from now, the Covid situation will be better than it is now; | 75% agree that even with restrictions relaxing over recent weeks, they don't want to rush into doing things; | 72% are worried that the pandemic restrictions will have a long-lasting negative effect on local jobs and the economy.

| 64% are worried that there will be further outbreaks of Covid-19 over the next few months; | 95% think it's important to follow the guidance in order to get Covid under control so life can get back to normal. | 90% think it's important to follow the guidance to help keep local businesses open.

| Only 1 in 5 (20%) of people in our region think that the situation will be worse in six months.

The Government is keen to vaccinate as many people as possible before the planned lifting of restrictions on July 19.

In the North East, case numbers have been rising fast. In some hotspots, they are tripling by the week, with younger, unvaccinated people driving those numbers up. All adults are now being offered a vaccine, with a pop-up hub set up at Newcastle's Centre for Life. And Prof Milne urged them to take up the offer of a jab, adding: "As well as providing some protection to them, this will help slow the spread of the virus.

"We need to learn to live alongside Covid 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 supporting Keep the North East Open, with many starring in the campaign.

Allan Hyslop, co-owner at Meat:Stack in Newcastle said: "We wanted to be part of the campaign and thank local people for all they are doing to curb Covid infection rates in our area, and remind them to stick with the Government guidance, so we can keep the North East open.

"After a really tough year, it's amazing to welcome people back and to once again be doing what we love most.

"We want to keep it that way, so please remember the 'hands, face, space' guidance when you visit us and get the vaccine.

"You'll be supporting us and protecting our livelihoods, so we can keep our doors open and our customers smiling."
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Author:IAN JOHNSON Reporter @IanJohnsonChron
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 25, 2021
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