Concern over Christmas gatherings as Covid rates soar in Essex

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation during a press conference at 4pm today after rumours of a second...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to review tier restrictions this week - Credit: PA

There are concerns about the potential impact that easing coronavirus restrictions could have on already rising case levels, ahead of the Government's review of tiers across England this week. 

What new rules are in place in England from today under the second coronavirus lockdown? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Shoppers have been busy preparing for Christmas but questions are being asked as to whether we should mix with family - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Both Suffolk and Essex currently sit in Tier Two where the virus risk is deemed 'high'. 

Of the two counties, case levels remain higher in Essex where there are fears that the county will move into the highest category, Tier Three this week - although families would still be able to unite over Christmas. 

Basildon in south Essex  has one of the highest infection rates in all of England at more than 500 cases per 100,000 people with Brentwood and Epping Forrest both above 300 per 100,000.

Braintree has the highest rate of all districts in north Essex with rates having risen from 97.6 cases per 100,000 in the week to December 2 to 268 cases per 100,000 in the week to December 10. 

On December 10 alone 110 cases were reported in the district. 

Clare Lager, Mayor of Witham, which sits in the district of Braintree,  said she did have concerns about rising case levels in the area.

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"Like a lot of people I am resolved to doing whatever needs to be done," said Mrs Lager.

"Basildon is not far away."

Mrs Lager said that further restrictions might change people's behaviour but said she was worried about the possible impact that Christmas could have on the infection rate.

"I don't think we should be allowed to get together over Christmas," said Mrs Lager. 

"It's really rather silly in the time of rising numbers.

"The sooner we can get through it the better."

Mrs Lager also said she didn't think the lifting of restriction was particularly fair as other cultures had not been allowed to celebrate their traditional holidays in the same way.

"I think it's very hard given that we are a multicultural community," said Mrs Lager. 

She implored those in the area that might be alone on Christmas Day to get in touch with the town council, which is offering hot meals. 

Mrs Lager's concerns mirror similar worries from ESNEFT chief Nick Hulme who said he was concerned what the lift in restrictions would do to the hospitals.

"It does concern me as we are approaching what some people are calling the 'Christmas amnesty' giving people greater flexibilities over Christmas - I think it will inevitably increase the number of people we see in hospitals," said Mr Hulme. 

The Government is expected to release further information about whether counties will change tiers later this week.