Government agrees extra Covid-19 restrictions for Essex
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has agreed to extra Covid-19 restrictions in Essex – including villages just minutes from Bishop's Stortford – from Saturday (Oct 17).
In a House of Commons statement on Thursday (Oct 15) he confirmed he was backing a request from the county council to impose the measures, which bar different households from mixing indoors, including in restaurants and pubs.
At the same time, London will also move from the 'medium' alert Tier 1 to the 'high' alert Tier 2 under the Government's new three-tiered system of local Covid-19 alert levels.
In Essex, Uttlesford is one of only two of the 14 council or unitary authority areas in Essex where the number of Covid cases has dropped in the last week – down eight from 69 in the week to Sunday October 4 to 61 in the week to Sunday October 11. The other area is Brentwood.
But Hertfordshire – including Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth – remains in Tier 1. Covid cases in all 10 district and borough council areas are on the rise.
Cllr David Finch, leader of Conservative-controlled Essex County Council, said: "We welcome the Government's announcement today regarding Essex moving to the 'high' local Covid alert category, which is clear recognition of the severity of the situation we find ourselves in as a county and indeed across many parts of the country.
"We think the Government has decided correctly, guided by the science, and the fact is that the number of cases in Essex is rising exponentially.
"We understand that the move to the 'high' local Covid alert level may affect people's lives and businesses and understand the very strong feelings about this. However, we have a duty of care to the people of Essex and we firmly believe that this is the best route to minimise disruptions, to save lives – not just for those with the virus, but for other patients as well – and to protect businesses.
"These are difficult times for individuals, businesses and communities, but I know that as a county we will come together to support and protect one another – as we have done previously – and that acting sooner rather than later to curb the spread of Covid is the right thing to do."
Every area of England now falls into three categories: medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3), depending on the local rate of infection.
People in Tier 1 areas must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors, and pubs, bars and restaurants must close by 10pm.
In Tier 2, residents must not meet socially in private homes, pubs or restaurants with people they don't live with. Families and friends may still meet outdoors, but only in a group of up to six.
For those in Tier 3 areas, there is a ban on meeting socially indoors or in private gardens or pub gardens with anybody who is not part of your household. People may still meet in parks, beaches, countryside or forests, as long as they are not in a group of more than six.
Only pubs and bars "serving substantial meals" can open and alcohol can be served only as part of a meal.
Further measures restrict residents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where a "circuit breaker" limited lockdown has been announced.
Covid cases, rates and deaths for the CM20-CM24 postcode areas
There have been 7,812 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in Hertfordshire – a rate of 656.7 per 100,000 population – and 8,769 in Essex (588.8 per 100,000 population).
Up until Wednesday (Oct 14), there have been:
East Herts – 824 cases (550.3 per 100,000 population), up 20.5% from 684 on Oct 4
Uttlesford – 543 cases (594.8 per 100,000 population), up 13.4% from 479 on Oct 4
Harlow – 553 cases (635.1 per 100,000 population), up 9.1% from 503 on Oct 4
Epping Forest – 904 cases (686.5 per 100,000 population), up 13.7% from 795 on Oct 4
In the week to Sunday (Oct 5-11) there have been:
East Herts – 138 cases (92 per 100,000 population), up 25 on the previous week
Uttlesford – 61 cases (67 per 100,000 population), down 8 on the previous week
Harlow – 45 cases (52 per 100,000 population), up 18 on the previous week
Epping Forest – 107 cases (81 per 100,000 population), up 20 on the previous week
Only East Herts is above the England area average of 89 per 100,000 people.
Coronavirus-related deaths registered to October 2
East Herts 102
Epping Forest 184
* Since Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow suffered its first Covid-19 related death in 121 days on September 23, three more deaths have been recorded. The East of England region has recorded 32 deaths from September 24 to October 12.