Officials believe the North East’s Covid-19 infection rate may have stopped rising just days into the third lockdown.
From Northumberland to Durham, the spread has slowed considerably in the past week with every area currently below the national average.
In South Tyneside, where cases had more than doubled last week, infections are now decreasing.
Despite that, the region’s top health officials have warned hospitals are still under “immense pressure” – and that cases are still way too high.
“We are seeing that infection rates across the region look to have stopped rising but it is not yet clear if they will plateau – as we saw in October – or fall,” said a statement on behalf of the LA7 directors of public health.
“Either way, the current rates remain too high for comfort and we need to see further progress.”
However, analysis of Government data by ChronicleLive shows a dramatic swing across much of the region in the same week Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown.
Cases in both South Tyneside and Northumberland are now decreasing, while the spread slowed significantly in Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.
In the latter, cases are up 3.3% this week – compared to an increase of 79.4% seven days earlier.
North of the Tyne, while the decrease wasn’t as rapid in Newcastle and North Tyneside, it has slowed.
And both council districts still have the lowest infection rates in the region.
It comes as a top scientist said that, nationally, both cases and hospital admissions appeared to be levelling off.
Prof Neil Ferguson told the BBC that there were “signs of plateauing” in some parts of the country, which has been in lockdown since January 5.
However, there are fresh fears yet another mutant strain – from Brazil – c ould enter the UK. It is still unclear how deadly or contagious that is – or if it vaccines combat it.
And the region’s health experts have warned that a different new mutant strain, which originated in the UK, now accounts for most of the North East’s cases.
“Our hospitals are still under immense pressure supporting increasing numbers of patients becoming seriously ill, and with the more transmissible variant of the virus now accounting for up to 60% of the current cases, we must still follow the regulations at all times,” added the LA7 officials.
“Remarkable progress is being made with the vaccination roll out and many of our most vulnerable residents have received at least their first dose already. However, while huge proportions of the population remain unprotected, the danger of rates spiralling out of control is still very real.
“We must all continue to stay at home except for the permitted exemptions, maintain hand hygiene, social distancing and the use of face coverings and do everything we can to prevent our NHS services from becoming overwhelmed.
“Whether or not tighter restrictions are needed in the future will be decided by Government based on the national picture, but for now, we must carry on staying at home and keep driving infection rates down.”
(The data is for the week ending January 8, and is taken from the Government’s Covis-19 map. The rate is the number of infections per 100,000 residents)
Newcastle upon Tyne – 295.9 (244 cases, an increase of 37.4 per cent)
Gateshead – 419.7 (848 cases, an increase of 3.8 per cent)
North Tyneside – 301.1 (624 cases, an increase of 21.2 per cent)
Northumberland – 309.5 (998 cases, a decrease of 10.5 per cent)
County Durham – 464.8 (2,464 cases, an increase of 3.3 per cent)
South Tyneside – 435.8 (658 cases, a decrease of 12.1 per cent)
Sunderland – 491.9 (1,366 cases, an increase of 2.4 per cent)