Extra Covid testing is to be deployed to the North East and the public have been advised to minimise the number of people they meet in a bid to stem a rise in coronavirus infections.

Seven local authorities across Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, and five local authorities in the Tees Valley, will receive the extra testing, support to maximise vaccine and testing uptake and help with public health campaigns.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) also announced that the extra support currently in place in the North West and Bedford will end.

The measures, which have been in place for six to ten weeks in the areas, have helped drive up testing and vaccine uptake in the areas but they will now be scaled back.

Targeted support will begin in the North East from Monday lasting five weeks.

The decision to redirect  help to the areas is based on the latest data and local insights, DHSC said, and aims to slow the growth of Covid-19 variants in the region.

South Tyneside had 1113.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 18, while Sunderland had 1086.8, Gatesthead had 905.2 and Newcastle had 824.3.

Local residents have also been urged to remain cautious and follow guidance including wearing face coverings on public transport, meet others outdoors, ventilate homes and minimise their number, duration and proximity of contacts.

Jo Churchill, Public Health Minister, said: “As the data changes it is vital that our public health response continues to change with it.

“By working in lockstep with local authorities and directors of public health, this additional support should help turn the tide on these growing case numbers and extend the wall of protection that vaccines is creating across the country.

“We all have a part to play in the continued fight against this virus and our message is a clear one: the best thing we can all do to protect ourselves and our loved ones is getting jabbed. If you haven’t had your first or second doses, I’d urge you to book your vaccination at the first opportunity.”

The full list of areas where extra support has been offered includes Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Newcastle Upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton on Tees.