New Covid rules came into force across England on Thursday, January 27, following the government's decision to lift “Plan B” measures and move to “Plan A.”
Since councillors last met, in November, the city has seen surges in Covid-19 infection rates; increased demand on the health and care sector; reduced resources and increased absence rates due to sickness and self-isolation.
The 12 areas in and around Sunderland where Covid-19 cases are rising most - including areas with 700% INCREASE
The 12 areas in and around Sunderland with the lowest Covid infections as cases fall by more than half since the start of May
'One in eight' have snubbed virus vaccine
Unvaccinated students urged to get coronavirus jab during Freshers’ week
11 destinations you can fly to from Newcastle Airport during half-term holidays
Council leader Graeme Miller said the "root cause" of challenges, including "demand far outstripping capacity", was the government's "massive underfunding of the sector over the past decade" and "failure" to plan for a national crisis.
And as England moves into the next phase of national restrictions, Cllr Miller urged people to continue playing their part to drive infection rates down, especially in light of the Omicron variant.
“As ever my plea to everyone across the city is to ensure they’re protected from becoming seriously ill and that everybody gets the doses of the vaccine that they’re eligible for as soon as possible,” he said.
“NHS teams and all those supporting them are working incredibly hard, as they have done for the past year, to keep Sunderland at the forefront of rolling out the vaccines and getting as many people vaccinated as possible and they're doing a brilliant job again so a huge thanks to everyone involved.
“But it is a whole team effort and we all need to keep on playing our part to drive infection rates down.
“Last week, along with a reduction in the self-isolation timeframes, the government announced the lifting of the Covid Winter Plan B measures, including work from home guidance and the wearing of face coverings.
“I know and understand that this return towards normality will be very welcome by many, particularly in seeing the example set, or rather not set, by Number 10, Number 11 and Number 12 Downing Street throughout the crisis.
“But I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is for us all to keep acting responsibly and to continue to be aware of the real danger that Covid still poses if we are to allow our efforts to slip."
Cllr Miller went on to say: “As restrictions are lifted and possibly come to an end altogether in the next few months we have got to keep on being mindful of whatever situation we’re in and think about how we can prevent the virus from spreading.
“If that means testing and isolating if positive, maintaining social distance still or wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, especially around vulnerable people as necessary, then I know Sunderland people will do the right thing and make the right choices.
“There are many exciting things in the pipeline for everyone in 2022 in Sunderland creating lots of opportunity of all kinds for our residents, so let's keep up the good work and let's keep Covid-19 at bay.”