Essex moved into Tier Two lockdown after government grants council request

  • People in Brightlingsea give their reaction to the announcement that Essex will move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 (High) from midnight on Friday night

People in Essex will face tougher coronavirus measures after the county was formally moved into Covid Tier 2 restrictions.

The escalation means households will no longer be able to mix indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.

However, households will still be able to mix outdoors - as long as the number doesn't exceed six.

Earlier this week, Essex became the first county to request to be moved up an alert level as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

That request has now been granted, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirming in the Commons on Thursday lunchtime that most of the county will switch from the current 'medium' tier to the 'high' tier from Saturday.

The new restrictions do not apply to Southend or Thurrock, which are unitary authorities. 

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Credit: PA

Announcing the news, Mr Hancock praised Essex County Council for taking action.

"Working with local leaders in Essex, we're also moving them into alert level high," he said.

"I want to pay tribute to the leadership of Essex County Council where they've been working so hard to suppress the virus."

The government's new three-tier system measures the risk in every area of England and places them in medium, high or very high alert categories.

Speaking to ITV News Anglia on Tuesday, Essex County Council leader Cllr David Finch said that asking the government to impose tougher restrictions on the county was not a decision that had been taken lightly.

"We're not doing this light-heartedly, we're not doing this flippantly," he said.

"My expectation if that we will come out of this sooner because we're going into Level 2 sooner, rather than wait and find out that it's so bad that we go straight into Level 3."

Councillors believe that tougher restrictions will help them to better protect hospitals in the county which could soon come under increased pressure.

Responding to Thursday's announcement, Cllr Finch said the fact that the government had granted the council's request was "clear recognition of the severity of the situation."

Essex County Hall in Chelmsford. Credit: ITV News Anglia

We welcome the Government’s announcement today regarding Essex moving to the High local Covid alert category, which is clear recognition of the severity of the situation we find ourselves in as a county.

Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council

“We think the Government has decided correctly, guided by the science and the fact is that the number of cases in Essex is rising exponentially," said Cllr Finch.

“We understand that the move to the High local Covid alert level may affect people’s lives and businesses and understand the very strong feelings about this. However, we have a duty of care to the people of Essex, and we firmly believe that this is the best route to minimise disruptions, to save lives - not just for those with the virus, but for other patients as well - and to protect businesses."

Local MP Bernard Jenkin added: "Essex has almost volunteered for this, even though it is quite low, because we want to nip it in the bud which means the measures that are applied should be shorter. 

"Some of us think we might as well have gone the whole hog and gone for the very high restrictions, the Tier Three restrictions. That would have the advantage of getting more support for business which is going to be very badly affected, particularly the pubs and restaurants."

According to Public Health England figures, there were 1,215 coronavirus cases in Essex in the seven days to Sunday 11 October - up 43% compared to the previous week.

Coronavirus cases per 100,000 in Essex in the week to 11 October 2020

Many places, including the Tendring and Rochford areas, have seen the number of cases more than double in that period, while the Maldon area saw the largest week-on-week percentage increase with cases jumping from 12 to 35 - a rise of nearly 200%.