By BBC Local Democracy Reporter
SOUTHEND and Thurrock could be forced into stricter coronavirus restrictions despite the number cases placing them on ‘medium’ alert – the lowest of the Government’s new three-tier system.
The two south Essex councils operate independently from Essex County Council but may be forced into being on ‘high’ alert if the Government agrees to a request from county leaders, who want to be escalated to the middle tier in a proactive bid to curb the spread of the virus.
Thurrock leader Rob Gledhill has fiercely criticised the request from Essex County Council, claiming the authority’s actions could have “far reaching implications” for businesses and residents while Southend Council has said “conversations need to be had”.
Mr Gledhill said: “I cannot believe that Essex County Council would make this proposal without appearing to fully consider the evidence of the impact of further restrictions it potentially also imposes on the people of Thurrock.
“The simple facts are the government have announced we are in Tier 1 – Medium alert, we have a far lower number of infections than most Essex districts and councils in the country, fortunately we have very few of our residents in hospital and even more fortunately we have had no residents die of Covid-19 since the middle of July.
“I have voiced my opposition to Thurrock being included in any voluntary increase in restrictions at the highest levels having spoken directly with Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health on Sunday and Public Health England East yesterday.
“Any decision on further lockdown restrictions must be balanced against the harm this action would have on the wellbeing of our residents and businesses and I am sorry the data as of today just doesn’t support a call for more restrictions being imposed on Thurrock residents and I am certainly not going to impose them voluntarily.”
In Southend urgent meetings have been called to discuss the new three-tier system and how the county’s request may impact on the borough.
However Councillor Trevor Harp, chair of the local outbreak control plan oversight and engagement board, did not rule out the authority joining the county council in asking to be placed on a higher tier than needed.
If it were to happen it could mean the entire county being placed on the same level of alert as places such as Manchester where the infection rate is 448 per 100,000.
In Southend the infection rate stands at 41.5 per 100,000 and in Thurrock it is 53.3 per 100,000.
Mr Harp said: “We continue to look at local data, digest the national announcement from yesterday, and continue discussions with relevant stakeholders today.
“This includes with our health protection board and oversight and engagement board.
“These discussions will consider a number of options for our local response, including whether or not to make a proactive request as Essex have.”Categories: CoronavirusLocations: