Essex and Hertfordshire to be moved up to tougher Tier 3 Covid restrictions amid steeply rising cases

  • Watch a report from Essex by ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost

The continuing increase in coronavirus cases in Essex has pushed the south and west if the county into Tier 3, which would mean pubs and restaurants now need to close. Parts of South Hertfordshire are also be included within the tougher restrictions.

An announcement was made in the House of Commons by Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock on Monday afternoon. A review of the tiers across England is still due on Wednesday.

The Health Secretary also said that experts have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be responsible for the "faster spread" in South East England.

It is not yet known if other areas of the East of England with high infection rates will face stricter measures when the review is carried out on Wednesday.

In Tier 3, pubs and restaurants are forced to close or open only for drive-through, takeaway or deliveries. Indoor entertainment venues would also shut and spectators would no longer be able to attend sporting fixtures but shops would remain open.

The areas of Essex affected by the new Tier 3 restrictions are in the south and west of the county including: Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Southend and Thurrock.

The areas of Hertfordshire affected are in the south of the county bordering London including Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and Three Rivers.

The move to Tier 3 will happen at 12.01 am on Wednesday 16 December 2020.

  • Watch a report on the situation in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire by ITV News Anglia's Matthew Hudson

Positive tests for coronavirus in Essex increased by 75% in the week to Wednesday 9 December from 3,000 cases to 5,400 cases.

Basildon has an infection rate of 614 cases per 100,000 people and neighbouring areas of Brentwood, Thurrock, Southend and Epping Forest have case rates above 300 per 100,000.

Cases have been increasing in most areas of the Anglia region in the past week with the regional infection rate now higher than that of England as a whole for the first time.

There were 184 cases per 100,000 in the population in the region in the week to 9 December. The England figure for the same period was 173 cases per 100,000.

Basildon has the third highest number of coronavirus cases per head of population in England Credit: ITV News Anglia

Essex County Council says nearly all the secondary schools in Basildon have moved to full remote education.

In an statement on Monday, a spokesman said: "As of today, eight of the nine secondary schools in Basildon district are operating a full remote education offer.

"Seventeen primary schools out of 48 in the Basildon district, have now moved to a full remote education offer.

Geoff Barton, a former headteacher at a school in Bury St Edmunds, now general secretary for the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools in Basildon need leadership "which is the same at a local level as it is at a national level." 

  • Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders, reacts to the closure of several Basildon schools.

He said: "At the moment, we get a government saying keep your schools open all the time. More locally, we have 'you should be closing'. It's a really difficult, invidious position to put a school leader in."

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow told ITV Anglia that although he supports the government's decision to move Essex into Tier 3, he sympathises with local businesses.

"Where its really going to hit people is the hospitality businesses, because restaurants will only be able to do takeaway," he said.

"It's going to hit theatres. It's going to effect some sporting venues as well. It's very depressing that this has happened but given the increase in the rates across the board, at the end of the day, I have to put my faith in the government medical officers".

Nearly all districts in Essex now have more than 100 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in the population with only Colchester at 98 cases per 100,000.

Coronavirus cases per 100,000 of the population in each district of Essex in the week to 9 December Credit: Data from Public Health England