Essex council leaders and MPs request move to “High” level Covid restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to rise


Following extensive discussions with Leaders of other councils across the county and with Essex MPs, Essex County Council is to apply to the Secretary of State for Health to be placed into the new ‘High level’ banding of Covid-19 restrictions.

Essex continues to see an increase in cases, which the County’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Dr Mike Gogarty has advised will continue to accelerate unless urgent action is taken and a move to ‘High’ from the current ‘Medium’ level is made sooner rather than later.

Essex has seen a significant increase in the number of cases, and rates in nearly all districts are now rising exponentially.

While the great majority of cases are in the younger age groups, rates are now increasing in older age groups as well, who are at higher risk of serious consequences. Hospital admissions are rising, and deaths are also now being reported. Without action now, Council expects to see substantially increase pressure on hospitals which will impact still further on those suffering from other serious conditions such as cancer.

Under High level restrictions, people must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. They must not meet in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other space.

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

Leader of Essex County Council, 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 Adults and 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.”

The request, which will go to the Secretary of State today (Tuesday 13 October), has the support of leaders from across the County Council’s area, along with the County’s MPs and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.

Local COVID Alert Level – Medium

This is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place. This means:

  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs.
  • Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am.
  • Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru.
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed
  • People must not meet in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors

Local COVID Alert Level – High

This is for areas with a higher level of infections. This means the following additional measures are in place:

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • People must not meet in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other space.
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.

Local COVID Alert Level – Very High

This is for areas with a very high level of infections. The Government will set a baseline of measures for any area in this local alert level. Consultation with local authorities will determine additional measures.

The baseline means the below additional measures are in place:

  • Pubs and bars must close, and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant – which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.
  • Wedding receptions are not allowed
  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space. The Rule of Six applies in open public spaces like parks and beaches.
  • People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘Very High’ area they are in, or entering a ‘Very High’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit.
  • People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘Very High’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘Very High’ area if they are resident elsewhere.
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