Essex representatives want county to be placed under “high level” coronavirus restrictions

PUBLISHED: 10:33 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:10 13 October 2020

Cllr David Finch, leader of Essex County Council. Photo: Essex County Council.

Cllr David Finch, leader of Essex County Council. Photo: Essex County Council.

Essex County Council

Essex County Council leaders and MPs will ask the Minister for Health Matt Hancock today (Tuesday) to place the county under “high level” coronavirus restrictions.

Councillor John SpenceCouncillor John Spence

The announcement comes as the government said the country will be split into three tiers, depending on the restrictions they deem necessary: medium, high and very high.

Essex areas, including Uttlesford, are currently classed as “medium” - and are seeing measures such as a 10pm curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants, and a ban on gatherings of more than six people, except for occasions such as funerals or weddings.

But county leaders think tougher restrictions are needed because cases are now rising exponentially across Essex.

Under a “high risk” tier, Essex residents would be prohibited from meeting anybody outside their household or support bubble indoors, whether at home or in a public setting. People from two households can meet in an outdoors public place or private garden, but only under the rule of six and with social distancing measures. Residents would also be advised to limit travel as much as possible, and walk, cycle and plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes.

Council representatives say these tighter measures must be taken sooner rather than later, as they are seeing more deaths, cases among older age groups and hospital admissions.

As of Monday, October 12, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Essex was 8,553, a rate of 574.3 cases per 100,000 people. There have been a total of 1,415 coronavirus-related deaths registered in Essex up to the week ending October 2.

Should ‘high level’ restrictions fail to work, areas would be placed into ‘very high’, the highest level of restrictions.

Leader of Essex County Council, Conservative Cllr David Finch, who also chairs the Essex Covid-19 engagement board, said: “By acting now, we can hope to stem this increase, limiting the time that we are in these enhanced restrictions and – above all – avoiding further escalation into ‘very high’. All of this will limit the damage to the economy; a healthy economy is critical to everyone having better lives in future.

“We already have one of the best track and trace operations in the country, but we will also be aiming to push its performance still higher alongside strengthening enforcement capacity and visibility. Making these painful decisions now will, we hope, bring dividends later.”

Cllr John Spence, ECC’s cabinet member for health, added: “We need both to look ahead and across the whole system.

“The advice from our director of public health is compelling – that without action now, we can expect to see continuing doubling of rates week after week, and these increases will be followed by on-going growth in hospital admissions and, most horribly of all, deaths. It is critical that we enable the hospitals and the NHS as a whole not just to cope with Covid, but to avoid yet further backlogs in other aspects of critical care.”

Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex’s director of public health and wellbeing, said: “Across the county we have moved from gradual to exponential growth with number of cases rising exponentially.

“We want act now to minimise the impact on the public health and the economy and by doing so we believe we can shorten the period of enhanced restrictions.”

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