Parts of Essex to enter Tier 3 restrictions - as new strain of coronavirus confirmed
- Credit: PA
The majority of Essex is set to enter the highest Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown restrictions on Wednesday, health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.
Speaking to the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Hancock confirmed that every local authority area bar Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring will enter the toughest restrictions from midnight Wednesday.
The move had been expected, with Dr Steve Jenkins, a respiratory consultant at Broomfield Hospital, warning the county would likely move up a tier due to "alarming" statistics.
At the time of his announcement, the latest statistics, which covered the seven days up to December 9, Basildon had the third-highest infection rate in the county at 613.8 cases per 100,000.
Families with children of secondary school age in in Harlow, Epping, Brentwood, Basildon, Castle Point and Rochford had also recently been advised to seek "immediate" testing.
Colchester was the only part of the county to record a seven-day infection rate lower than 100 per 100,000.
London will also be placed under the highest restrictions, Mr Hancock said, alongside parts of Hertfordshire.
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Mr Hancock said a rise in cases could be due to a newly-discovered variant of the virus, which has mostly been found in the south and south-east of the country.
The new variant does not pose the danger of more serious cases of the virus however, Mr Hancock said. Cases are, however, spreading across all age groups.
As part of Tier 3, all pubs and restaurants will be forced to close and will only be able to offer takeaway services.
Household mixing will also be banned in private gardens, unlike in Tier 2.
Hotels will be closed to the majority of guests, and cinemas and any other indoor hospitality and entertainment venues will also have to close their doors.
David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, said he is "very disappointed by the news".
Mr Finch said: “We have worked tirelessly to reduce the spread of infection in our county, but unfortunately the numbers continue to go in the wrong direction, especially in those areas that the government have decided should move to Tier 3.
“We know that for these areas, moving to Tier 3 will inevitably impact businesses, particularly in the hospitality trade at what would normally be their busiest time of the year.
"We will lobby the government to ensure our Essex businesses have all the support they need, during this very challenging time.
“Ultimately, it is in our hands to stem the spread of this dreadful virus.
"The greatest gift anyone can give this Christmas is keeping yourself and your family safe. No-one wants to see a further rise in cases after the holidays.
"Please, follow the restrictions relevant to your area, work from home and of course, remember - hands, face and space.”
Colchester MP Will Quince said he is proud of the work done by people in his constituency and Tendring to help slow the spread of the virus.
Mr Quince said via Twitter: "Our numbers are thankfully relatively low but if we want to remain in Tier 2, we must re-double our efforts and be vigilant.
"I would like to thank Matt Hancock for listening to our representations and taking a localised evidence and data-based approach.
"I know locally we will continue to do all we can to help keep our numbers relatively low and work together to beat this awful virus."
Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is very disappointing that the government has had to make this announcement, as we know that businesses across the county have been working hard to adhere to the government’s regulations and do their bit to ensure the safety of staff and customers alike.
“We know that this will hit some businesses particularly hard and we would once again urge everyone in the county to continue to do their bit to help contain this disease by keeping at a safe distance, using face masks and washing their hands regularly.
"We have Christmas coming up and we want to see everyone keep as safe as possible so we can get back to normal sooner rather than later.”