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Most of Essex will face tougher coronavirus restrictions from 00:01 on Wednesday, the Health Secretary announced this afternoon.
The areas moving into Tier 3 are: Basildon, Thurrock, Southend, Braintree, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon and Rochford. London will also be moved into Tier 3.
The only areas in Essex avoiding Tier 3 restrictions are Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford.
The main difference between the current Tier 2 restrictions and the upcoming Tier 3 restrictions is the closure of hospitality, except for takeaway and delivery.
Under Tier 3 restrictions, shops, personal care and gyms all remain open. Education settings also remain open, whilst adults are still encouraged to work from home.
The move to place tougher restrictions on Essex comes after rising infection rates, most notably in Thurrock, Southend and Basildon, which currently has the 3rd highest rate in England.
The measures will be reviewed on 23rd December.
Leader of Essex County Council, Cllr David Finch said:
” I am of course very disappointed with this news. 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.”
Leader of Basildon Council, Cllr Gavin Callaghan, said:
“This never needed to happen. We knew three weeks ago that our R rates across Essex were going in the wrong direction. I called for schools to be closed early – I called for workplace testing to be introduced, and we ended up with dithering and procrastination from the Government and Essex County Council. I know that it took from the 26th November until the 8thDecember to get LFT testing up and running and the tests haven’t been targeted in the right areas.
“Tier 3 restrictions will devastate our hospitality businesses at their busiest time of the year and is unfair when the science has been telling us for weeks that they are not the cause of our high infection rates.
“To put us in Tier 3 on Wednesday will certainly lower the chances of our already struggling hospitality businesses of surviving and leave their employees in financial hardship at the most challenging monetary time of the year for families. This time of year people are taking home more money in tips and overtime then they may earn in any other weeks of the year. The Government needs to ensure that already low paid workers are not put into further significant financial hardship.
“I’m frustrated for our businesses and I’m devastated for our residents – our borough has been let down by the government and Essex County Council.
“It is going to be a confusing week for people now. I’m already getting questions from residents asking what they can and can’t do whilst in Tier 3 over Christmas and how this affects their plans for Christmas. The Secretary of State needs to clarify what the impact will be for Christmas plans and quickly.
“And this isn’t just a Basildon issue. Basildon is the biggest economy on the Thames Estuary after Canary Wharf. People travel from far and wide to work here every single day. I’ve warned that if the biggest economy in Essex was left to rot, it would have a knock on effect across Essex and East London and so it has proven. The announcement today shows how our rates across Essex have risen exponentially in places like Thurrock, Rochford and Braintree. This could have been avoided.
“I once again ask our residents in Basildon and across Essex to please follow the rules, and do the right thing to protect your families this Christmas.”
Leader of Thurrock Council, Cllr Rob Gledhill, said:
“This is not the decision any of us were hoping for, but the increasing rate of community transmission across the south east has led to some of the highest positive test rates in the country, which has meant the government has taken the decision to place Thurrock as well as most of Essex and all of London into tier 3 restrictions.
“In contrast to the tier decision before the last lockdown I have not been consulted by the government on this decision or been given the opportunity to discuss the local position with ministers, which is most disappointing.”
John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay said:
“This is a disappointing development. However, the Government is right to take these necessary steps, as we know how quickly it can spread and winter is upon us. The first duty of Government is to protect lives. We must now all work hard to contain the virus.”
“I am sorry for the many businesses affected across the constituency, especially for the hospitality industry. The various Government support schemes stand ready to help businesses and protect jobs.”
“Meanwhile, everyone must keep to the stricter Tier 3 restrictions. Those with coronavirus symptoms should continue to book a test via NHS 119. Those without symptoms living in Fryerns, Pitsea, Vange and Wickford should get a free rapid test.”
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend Council, says:
“We know the impact this will have on our hospitality industry, who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic to keep their businesses COVID-secure and keep people safe. Their dedicated approach to this has helped keep rates relatively low in Southend-on-Sea until very recently.
“We will do all we can to support those businesses affected and lobby for and pass on any national funding we receive for that purpose quickly. We would also encourage local people to continue supporting the local hospitality industry by safely enjoying delivery, click and collect or by simply buying vouchers to be used in the future for example. Now is the time to adhere to the regulations but also shop local, shop safe and support local business as best we can.”
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should isolate and book a test.