Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller

Welcome to this latest edition of our residents’ update.

As our battle against Covid-19 continues, as a country we’ve sadly passed a very sobering milestone this week with 100,000 Covid-related deaths recorded.

The enormous grief and suffering caused by every life lost, whatever the cause, is just so very difficult to face, and the fact that so many have died over the past 12 months is extremely tough to take.

We mourn for those who’ve lost their lives in Sunderland and the North East region, and extend our deepest sympathies to their loved ones.

If we can though, then we must try and take at least a little solace in the fact that many more lives have been saved thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the vast majority of residents who’ve been following the rules and guidance, and playing their part in trying to overcome this dreadful pandemic.

I know I say this repeatedly, but with so much at stake, and with brighter days most definitely ahead if we can just keeping on going in these difficult months, I make no apology for once again appealing to everyone to continue doing everything possible to stay safe and protect others.

While we await the added protection that the vaccination programme will bring, we must stay at home other than for absolutely necessary and permitted reasons, maintain distance from others at all times, wear face coverings unless exempt and keep hands washed thoroughly and regularly.

In terms of vaccinating people, working through the priority categories set out by the Government, our colleagues in the NHS and all the other individuals and organisations supporting them are doing a magnificent job.  The North East is ahead of the curve and indeed Sunderland has been mentioned by name recently, by the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, for having gotten so many of our most vulnerable residents vaccinated very quickly.

This is down to brilliant planning and absolute dedication and I cannot praise or thank our colleagues enough for mobilising such an effective, impressive, life-saving effort.  Our hope and plea to the Government is to keep on supplying us with all the vaccines possible as we have the proven systems and capacity to get high numbers of vaccinations into people’s arms, enabling the vaccines to play their part in helping the country to get back to normal.

At this point in time, infection rates in the city and region remain high, especially with the more transmissible variant of the virus accounting for the majority of our cases now, so it is incredibly important that we continue with this multi-faceted approach to driving infection rates down, and we all take our individual roles seriously.

If you have to leave home to go to work because it’s not possible to work at home, I’d strongly urge both employers and employees to make every possible effort to work in a Covid-secure way, including when travelling to help stop the spread of the virus.

We have also just received the news that it will be 8 March at the earliest before the current national lockdown restrictions may start to be lifted so that our children can begin to return to school, and I know this brings incredible challenges for people in all sorts of ways.

So let’s keep on doing all we possibly can in this final stretch and get our children and students back in their places of learning, our businesses back open and families and friends safely reunited, as soon as we possibly can.

By taking responsibility for ourselves, our families and everyone around us we can help ensure that fewer and fewer people in our city fall victim to Covid-19 in the coming months.

As ever, the council and our partners across all sectors will do all we can to support the city’s residents, organisations and businesses and we are extremely grateful for all that you are doing too.

And please, as and when you’re offered a vaccination, make the appointment to ensure you have that vital protection against becoming seriously ill.

Take the greatest of care, stay safe and please keep on doing your bit by following the rules and guidance.

With all good wishes,

Cllr Graeme Miller

Leader of the Council

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