Public health chiefs have welcomed a “better picture” for Covid-19 case rates in Sunderland but continue to urge residents to follow lockdown rules.
Last week, public health bosses saw a large increase in the number of people who were testing positive for coronavirus on Wearside.
This included rates of around 570 cases per 100,000 population for the week ending January 4 – the highest rate recorded for the city so far.
Despite recent data showing case rates are decreasing, health chiefs have warned of the “difficult weeks” ahead and are urging the public to follow national guidance to help stop the spread of the virus.
“The rates over the last couple of days are looking slightly better,”said Gerry Taylor, executive director of public health and integrated commissioning.
“We’re now in a position where our cases are around 470 cases per 100,000 for the week ending January 7, so a better picture there.
“But what we’re seeing given the very high rates that we have in the city, is increased pressure on the hospital, the data that we have seen in the last few days from the hospital suggests that the number of inpatients with Covid has increased significantly.”
Ms Taylor went on to say: “Those very high rates that we have seen in the city are having the knock-on effect that we were anticipating in terms of the ill health and the pressure on our health and social care services that we were unfortunately expecting to see with the increased cases that we have.
“As we’re all aware, government instituted further restrictions at the beginning of last week.
“I think what we have seen is really throughout this whole period, are residents doing an excellent job in terms of following government guidance.
“But where we are at the moment, many of us will have heard [Chief Medical Officer] Chris Whitty in the media yesterday stressing that this a very vital and important time for us and it is going to be very difficult over the next few weeks.
“So it’s really important that we all follow the national guidance which is around staying at home and only going out when we need to for the exceptional reasons – such as if we’re unable to work from home, if we have a medical appointment and once a day daily exercise.”
The public health chief also called for residents to follow guidance when visiting supermarkets, including the use of face coverings, social distancing and washing hands after visits.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, added: “Everybody pointed out to the Government back in December  that their wantonly reckless opening up of the public to getting together over the Christmas period would give us a spike in January and lo and behold it comes to pass.
“It’s terrible the fact that we have gone up to 570 cases per 100,000 and thankfully it is coming down now and hopefully that will continue.”