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Durham police remind people to stay home for Easter

Durham police says please respect social distancing regulations.

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Banner support for fire service

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has described a banner hung outside its main office as a "lovely gesture of support".

It is directly opposite the council HQ and so can be viewed by staff from the Great North Ambulance Service as they drive in and out of work.

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County Durham music lessons go on line

Music lessons for youngsters in County Durham will move online after the Easter holidays.

Durham Music Service (DMS) gives small group lessons and whole school sessions in normal times.

But government social distancing measures currently mean the sessions need to go online.

Now video conference calls will enable children to continue to learn and socialise with their teacher in their usual groups.

A daily video will also be produced for use in schools educating the children of key workers and will be accessible for youngsters being taught at home.

Find out more here.

An online session
Durham County Council

Household waste recycling centres to close

All household waste recycling centres operated by Durham County Council are to close until further notice.

The authority said it was due to the latest guidance on the coronavirus outbreak, and thanked residents for their patience.

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Mild winter boosts small bird numbers

The mild winter has boosted the number of small birds spotted in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Almost 3,700 people in County Durham took part in the 41st annual count held over the last weekend in January with the house sparrow (male and female pictured) the most common sighting followed by the starling and blue tit.

Male and female house sparrows
Getty Images

The RSPB said there was also an increase in the number of long-tailed tits, wrens, and coal tits in people's gardens.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Small birds suffer during long, cold winters but the warmer January weather this year appears to have given species such as the wren and long-tailed tit a boost."

Protective equipment stolen from ambulance

BBC Radio Tees

Person protective equipment (PPE) was stolen from an ambulance on a call out in Middlesbrough on Monday, police have said.

The theft occurred as the ambulance crew attended emergency calls in Middlesbrough’s Newport area.

The items reported stolen were provided to the ambulance crew to keep them safe as they provide life-saving treatment to patients, a Cleveland Police spokeswoman said.

Ambulance
Google

Ch Supt Thom McLoughlin said: “The theft of equipment from frontline ambulance staff is despicable. Our emergency service colleagues continue to assist those in most need and it is disgraceful they were targeted in this way."

The North East Ambulance Service said it was one of four thefts of such equipment across the region in the past week.

Paramedics' protective equipment stolen

Protective equipment for paramedics has been stolen from ambulances four times in the past week, the North East Ambulance Service has said.

A spokeswoman said the items were stolen while crews were treating patients in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

The equipment is used by healthcare workers to protect themselves from infection from coronavirus and it also keeps them from infecting other vulnerable patients.

Head of risk at North East Ambulance Service, Alan Gallagher, said: “To hear about such selfish acts of theft is incredibly disappointing and we will not tolerate it. The impacts of such acts could severely impede our combined efforts to keep people safe. Those responsible should consider the wider impact that their actions could have on the community and their own emergency care, should they ever need it.

“As a result, all vehicles will now carry minimal stocks.

“All of our vehicles are fitted with CCTV and anyone attempting to board one whilst the crew are treating patients is likely to be caught on camera and the footage provided as evidence to the police.”

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Ambulance service gives thanks for support

The North East Ambulance Service has given thanks to those supporting it during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Park-and-ride services halted as demand drops

Park-and-ride services in Durham are being stopped amid the coronavirus outbreak.

With more people working at home following government announcements last week, county council-run bus services at Sniperley, Belmont and Howlands have seen a significant fall in use.

A reduced service has been in place at Belmont and Sniperley since Wednesday, while Howlands has operated solely as a car park.

The council has also waived parking charges at all its car parks, on and off-street, meaning key workers have access to free parking within the city centre - a move that has further reduced demand for park-and-ride facilities, it said.

Bus services at Belmont and Sniperley were suspended this morning and all three car parks will close at 19:00 today.

Durham Bus Station will also close on Monday, with all buses using street stops to avoid people having to wait in an enclosed space. Other bus stations are currently being reviewed, the authority says.

Routine patient transport service suspended during virus crisis

Routine ambulance transport has been cancelled to help ease demand during the coronavirus crisis.

The North East Ambulance Service said the decision would allow it to support hospitals to discharge more patients well enough to return home and free-up the maximum possible inpatient and critical care capacity in the region.

A limited transport service will continue for patients needing dialysis; chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatment; and when required for non-urgent assessment as directed by a clinician.

Ambulance
BBC

Barry Dews, Strategic Head of Operations at NEAS, said: “This is not a decision taken lightly and we know some patients will be worried about whether they should still attend their hospital appointment.

“We regularly carry out around 2,800 patient journeys a day and we have already seen this drop to 1,500 patient journeys a day as hospitals start cancelling appointments and some patients are either self-isolating or following government advice to socially distance themselves.

“We are working very closely with hospitals and our NHS commissioners to ensure that all patients are notified of this change and given advice on what they should do next.”

Patients who have any concerns their transport should ring NEAS patient transport on 0300 111 0247.

For those patients showing symptoms of COVID-19, vehicles will only transport one patient at a time.

Crews in direct contact will also be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), although the designated driver will not be required to wear PPE whilst driving.

Seaham Food Festival cancelled due to coronavirus

The Seaham Food Festival has been cancelled due to coronavirus.

Durham County Council said it had no alternative following government advice on social distancing.

It was due to take place on June 13 and 14.

The authority has already cancelled a similar event in Bishop Auckland.

The Seaham festival was launched last year and despite having its first day washed out, attracted more than 14,000 people to the seaside town.

Gill O’Neill, the council’s acting head of culture, sport and tourism, said: “This decision was not taken lightly, as we were looking forward to building upon the success of last year’s festival.

"We know how important events like these are to the county’s economy and the food producers that support it.

“However, our foremost concern is that the festival does not put at risk the health of our visitors, traders, chefs, partners, sponsors, event staff and volunteers."

Seaham Food Festival 2019
Durham County Council

Team meets to bid for funding for Bishop Auckland

The first meeting of a new team bidding for up to £25m for Bishop Auckland has been held by video conferencing, in line with national guidance on social distancing.

Partners brought together by Durham County Council are putting together the bid for money from the Government’s Stronger Town’s Fund.

The County Durham town was invited by the Government to apply for a share of £1.6bn.

The council says it will create opportunities for local people and businesses.

Support for businesses and workers across the county affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, is at www.durham.gov.uk or www.businessdurham.co.uk/news-events-county-durham/covid-19-information.

Bishop Auckland Town Hall
Durham County Council
Bishop Auckland Town Hall

Advice for rough sleepers in Durham

Durham County Council has issued advice to anyone sleeping rough or staying in temporary accommodation or hostels who feels unwell during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Changes to services at Durham Crematorium

In line with government guidellines, changes have been made to the number of people attending crematoria services.

Read the latest Durham County Council services changes here

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Council staff deployment to support bin collection

North Tyneside Council said it has redeployed staff to ensure frontline and essential services can keep running during the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the first are those from environmental services, who have volunteered to be retrained as refuse collectors, to protect against potential shortages caused by collection crew self-isolating at home.

Newcastle, Durham, Northumberland and Sunderland councils have all said refuse services are continuing to run as normal.

Gateshead Council said it was also collecting as normal, and reminded residents to wash their hands before putting anything in bins for outside collection.

All councils asked people to keep checking the websites for updates.

row of bins
BBC

Emergency services issue parking plea

Northumberland Fire and Rescue service has asked people to be considerate when it comes to parking.

It says that with more people working from home there are more cars parked up in streets and housing estates.

Residents are urged to ensure they have left enough room for emergency services vehicles to get through.

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Paper girl's sweet treat to self-isolating widow

A paper girl posted a note with a chocolate bar through the letterbox of a self-isolating widow.

Sophie, 14, from Darlington, saw a sign on the 84-year-old's door saying she could not see anyone.

Although they had never met, Sophie popped a Dairy Milk and a note saying "hope you are ok" through her door.

Dairy Milk and note
Elizabeth Outhwaite

Demand at County Durham food-bank trebles

A County Durham charity says its food-bank is like a military field hospital as demand trebled overnight.

East Durham Trust needs public help to meet the surge in demand caused by people who are self-employed or are on zero hour contracts and are having to self-isolate due to the Covid-19 virus.

Since Monday the Trust says it has already supported crisis food parcels to almost 200 people and it expects the pressure on to increase when the schools close.

It's appealing to everyone in the local area to consider food banks at this difficult time and buy additional items were possible. This includes any non-perishable food but particularly long life UHT milk, cereal, tinned meat, fish and vegetables and pasta sauces as well as bread.

East Durham Trust also needs volunteers with access to a vehicle.

You find it at Community House, Yoden Road, Peterlee, SR8 5DP.

On-line donations at http://bit.ly/DonateEDT

Durham Council closes theatres and venues

Durham County Council is closing its theatres as part of its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

New measures announced today include the closure of attractions such as Durham’s Gala Theatre, the Empire Theatre at Consett, Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Durham Town Hall, Binchester Roman Fort, Bowlees Visitor Centre and Killhope Lead Mining Museum.

Gala theatre
Google

People who have bought tickets for shows and performances up until the end of May will be contacted to arrange refunds. Gala members will have the period of the closure added to the end of their membership.

Also, all council leisure centres and libraries will close until further notice, although the mobile library service will continue.

All events before the end of April have been cancelled including Durham Adventure Festival and Bishop Auckland Food festival. All council meetings scheduled before the end of March have been cancelled as has the Big Spring Clean litter-picking campaign.

Seaham sees a bright start

Away from all the coronavirus news, here's a lovely photo captured at Seaham Marina this morning by Dan Myers.

Sunshine over the calm North sea and Red Acre cliffs

Seaham Harbour captured in mirror
Dan Myers

Work begins on new primary school

Building work has begun on a new £10m primary school in Bowburn.

Teachers and pupils of Bowburn Primary School gathered for the turf cutting ceremony at the site of its new build on the site of the former Bowburn Junior School on Surtees Avenue.

It follows the creation of the primary school when the junior and Bowburn Infant and Nursery schools were amalgamated last year.

Children at ceremony
Durham County Council

Your photos: Double rainbow in Weardale

Hamish Paterson sent us this beautiful photo of a double rainbow in Weardale - it's really stunning.

Have you got a photo you'd like to share with us? You can send us photos you can tweetus, contact us via our Facebook page or email us.

Double rainbow
HAMISH PATERSON

Weather : Wind, sunshine and showers

BBC Weather

This afternoon will be windy, with strong south-westerly winds possibly touching gale force at times.

Tonight will stay windy with strong to gale force westerly winds but they will ease overnight. Showers are expected, turning wintry across high ground.

Weather grid
BBC

And you can see the latest weather where you are by clicking here

County Durham is prepared for coronavirus says health boss

James Harrison

Local Democracy Reporter

County Durham is well prepared for coronavirus cases, according to health bosses.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, Durham County Council cabinet member for Adult and Health Services said that she was confident that everything was in place.

There are no plans yet to restrict council meetings or public access to council premises, but Ms Hovvels added "people are quite sensible and I think people will do what they can to prevent it spreading".

Amanda Healy, the council’s director of public health told a meeting: "We’re still following up on every case.”

She said: "If things move to the next phase, where we’re looking to delay transmission, then plans will move to include schools, universities and workplaces, as well as support for colleagues in health and social care, where pressure will be felt if there’s increasing cases."

Darlington coronavirus case actually in County Durham

BBC Radio Tees

A coronavirus case previously reported as being in Darlington is actually in County Durham, Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed.

PHE had initially listed the case in County Durham yesterday morning, but later changed it to Darlington. But today they have said it is actually in County Durham with a "local reporting error" to blame for the confusion.

A spokeswoman for PHE North East said: "This minor reporting inaccuracy did not in any way delay the public health response to this case and we are contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed Durham case and they will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases.”

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health, said: “We are aware of yesterday’s reporting error and would reiterate Public Health England North East’s message that this did not affect the public health response.

“The resident diagnosed with coronavirus in County Durham has been offered support.

"We would like to reassure residents that the risk to people in our area is currently low and the advice to the public remains the same. The best way of protecting yourself against infection is regular handwashing with soap and water or the use of a hand sanitiser when this is not possible. And, as with all viruses, coughs and sneezes should be caught in a tissue which should be thrown in the bin before you wash your hands."

Safety issues delay County Durham museum opening

A County Durham museum will stay closed for the start of the summer season over public safety concerns.

Durham County Council says that Killhope lead mining museum in Weardale will not open at the beginning of next month after an inspection revealed issues with the condition of some structures on the site.

Significant work is needed to a number of the structures including the launder, which carries water to the 19th Century waterwheel.

The affected buildings need to be fenced off for public safety.

Gill O’Neill, the council’s acting head of culture and sport, said: “We are currently assessing the condition of the buildings

“We need to await the outcome of these investigations before we make any decisions about how we address these issues.

“However, in the meantime, it is necessary to cordon off those areas of the site that are affected and it would, therefore, not be fair to welcome visitors when they are not able to access the whole of the site.”

Killhope usually opens to visitors between April and October, closing to the public over the winter.

The wheel at the mine
BBC

What happens when you are tested for coronavirus?

BBC Newcastle

Gavin's just got home to County Durham from Thailand.

He's unwell & waiting for coronavirus test results:

Severe accident: A182 County Durham both ways

BBC News Travel

A182 County Durham both ways severe accident, near Asda.

A182 County Durham - A182 in Seaham partially blocked and it's heavy in both directions near the Asda junction, because of an accident.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

County Durham villagers urged to reopen their only pub

Villagers are being urged to support a bid to reopen their only pub and run it for the community.

The Times Inn at Dalton-le-Dale, near Seaham, closed last October.

Now a group's been created to rally support and to see if villagers will buy shares in the pub and manage it themselves.

Angela Sandwith (pictured) says there is a meeting in St Andrew's Church in the village this Saturday.

Angela Sandwith at the pub door
BBC

Prison officer 'wrote to governor over abuse trials'

PA Media

A prison officer at a top security jail emailed a prison governor asking him to have a "quiet word" with a guard who was giving evidence at a series of abuse trials against former officers, a jury heard.

John McGee, 50, from Burnopfield, County Durham, told Durham Crown Court the email was a "moment of madness" after his father had been convicted for his part in the mistreatment of inmates at Medomsley Detention Centre in the 1970s.

He denies a single count of perverting the course of justice, saying he did not think Phil Husband, the number one governor of Durham Prison, would act on the email he sent.

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said an officer called Hugh Cockburn gave evidence at three trials at Teesside Crown Court about seeing young inmates being assaulted in the reception at Medomsley.

He now worked at Durham Prison, where Mr Husband was the boss. McGee's father, also called John, was convicted of misconduct in a public office in December 2018, in the second of three trials of ex-guards.

The trial continues.

Video views of Extinction Rebellion protest

And here's a view of the Extinction Rebellion protest against the expansion of a mine near Dipton, County Durham.

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Theatre to close for £500k revamp

A theatre in County Durham will shut for five months to undergo a £500,000 upgrade.

Durham County Council is investing the money in Consett's Empire Theatre which needs essential roof repairs.

Empire Theatre
Durham County Council

The project will also involve refreshing the auditorium's decor, as well as updates to lighting and backstage facilities for visiting acts.

The 500-seat venue, which was built in 1885, will shut on 1 April and reopen in early September.

Four Darlington schools closed

Four schools have been closed in the Darlington area, Darlington Borough Council said.

They are:

  • Heighington CE Primary
  • Wyvern
  • Holy Family
  • Rise Carr College

Dozens of schools have also closed across County Durham because of the snow. The latest list can be found here.

More schools closed by snow

More schools in County Durham have announced they will close today because of the weather.

Newest additions to the list include:

  • Seascape Primary School
  • Castleside Primary School
  • Consett Academy
  • Bloemfontein Primary School
  • Hamsterley Primary School
  • Roohope Primary School
  • East Stanley School
  • Bishop Barrington School
  • Benfieldside Primary School
  • St John's Chapel Primary School
  • Stanley Crook Primary School
  • North Durham Academy

Click here for the latest updates on school closures.

Director revealed for award-winning play of 'hope'

A respected theatre director will oversee a production in County Durham.

Conrad Nelson has been appointed to direct the Gala Theatre’s production of Cathy, which runs at the Durham City venue from 5 to 9 May.

The play, by award-winning playwright Ali Taylor, was inspired by Ken Loach's 1966 television drama, Cathy Come Home, and follows Cathy and her teenage daughter Danielle, who are forced out of their flat by spiralling living costs.

But despite the serious issues it explores, Conrad insists the production will be as heart-warming as it is hard-hitting.

“Cathy explores what happens when someone falls between the cracks in the system,” he said.

Conrad Nelson
Gala Theatre

PCC's widow calls for assisted dying law change

BBC Breakfast

The widow of former Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg has told BBC Breakfast she now supports assisted dying and is calling for a change in the law.

Mr Hogg campaigned for it to be de-criminalised before he died in December, aged 68, months after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Having previously been against such a move, his wife, Maureen, said her views had changed:

"His condition was deteriorating almost by the day. At that point we were just trying to get through each day.

"To see him cry, to be in that situation, was heartbreaking and that's something he had to live through and the memory is something I have to live with for the rest of my life.

"It's not what I would've wished for, so yes, I have changed my thinking."

It is illegal in England and Wales to encourage or assist a death and it holds a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The Royal College of GPs is set to announce its stance on the issue later.

Ron Hogg in a hospice with his wife, Maureen
Family handout