Covid cases are currently almost doubling every week in Essex - but health chiefs say hospital ICU and death rates are “declining”.

Overall the average number of cases across Essex is around 600 per 100,000 people – an 82% rise in a week.

The rates in the over 60s went up by 60%.

However, the age groups which are seeing the highest rates of increase are 23 to 39, and 40 to 59.

One councillor told the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board he believed anecdotally the real rate was higher than 600 per 100,000 because “numerous” friends are getting Covid.

Maldon is experiencing a rate of 850 per 100,000 people, while Tendring with 660 has doubled in the past week.

Dr Maggie Pacini, acting director of public health for Essex, said the increase in Covid cases is not being shifted into higher deaths or serious infection.

She said: “Because of relative small numbers the hospitalisation data is subject to fluctuation so it is harder to note what trends are going on.

“But at the moment bed occupancy in ICU and high dependency are showing small decreases in number and deaths in hospital appear to be declining.

“We have now moved into a new phase of the pandemic – living with Covid.

“So there is going to be less testing happening but that will still be maintained for certain staff sectors such as health and social care and vulnerable people.

“We are going to be changing to responding to a changing situation.

“So that may be if there is a new surge or new variant or it may just be at a local level with local outbreaks.

“But the focus moving forward will be about protecting through testing and treatment.”

John Spence, chairman of the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “I can name numerous friends of my group who are down with Covid – I don’t think people are bothering to notify now.

“They are just being responsible and locking themselves away. My suspicion is the rates are far greater but it is hospitalisation that matters.”