The Government has today announced that Essex will be placed under new Tier 2 restrictions when the current national restrictions end on Wednesday December 2.
Under the Tier 2 restrictions, people must not socialise indoors with anyone they do not live with or who is not in their support bubble, and the rule of six will apply outdoors.
Pubs and bars will only be able to operate as restaurants, and can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. They can open until 11pm, but must take last orders at 10pm and offer table service only.
Businesses, including shops can open, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs. Gyms and leisure centres can also reopen and up to 2,000 spectators will be allowed at live sporting events.
Cllr Trevor Harp, Southend Council cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “Southend-on-Sea has worked extremely hard as a community to prevent the spread of coronavirus and consequently has one of the lowest case rates in the country (133 per 100,000 as Thursday November 26).
“I therefore know that many local businesses and residents will share our disappointment that Southend-on-Sea will be placed in Tier 2 from next week.
“However, we have to acknowledge that only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly will be in the lowest level of restrictions and we have to accept the tier we have been placed in and that a regional approach has been taken.
“We saw a peak of cases last week, and have since seen a reduction of our case rate per 100,000 as the positive impact of national restrictions is seen. We hope that everyone keeps doing their bit, case rates fall further and we can get back into tier one restrictions as soon as possible.
“Going into Tier 2 will be hard for many, but we must all continue to work together, and follow the restrictions in place. This will help to prevent the spread of the virus, save lives and protect the NHS. As we have done throughout, we will continue to support our local community and local businesses through these difficult times and anyone struggling should visit our website for further information on the support and advice available to them.
“I now urge people to remember the basics too – ‘hands, face, space’, don’t mix indoors with anyone from outside your household or bubble, work from home if possible, and as ever, if you have symptoms, self-isolate and get tested.”
Meanwhile, Brentwood Borough Council leader, Chris Hossack, said: “I know it is a great relief to be out of national lockdown and although the Tier 2 restrictions must be adhered to it means that we can have Christmas again.
“I want to thank all the residents who have taken care to follow the restrictions throughout this pandemic, your efforts made a contribution to getting us out of lockdown into Tier 2 and help our local businesses to open up again for December
“We still need to work together to ensure that this positive new step is the first on the path to a return to normality. I am delighted that businesses can reopen, that retailers can now welcome their customers back to their COVID secure stores and generate much needed pre-Christmas sales.
“I want to ask our residents to support our local businesses like never before in the lead up to Christmas and beyond. We are not out of the woods yet, we need to comply with the new rules but we also need to help ensure the future of our local economy by doing everything we can to give them a great Christmas too.”
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care or Health at Rochford Disttrict Council, said: “When we recommended entry into tier two, national lockdown had been ruled out as an option. Subsequently it re-emerged, so actually, the impact of our recommendation on Essex was short lived.
“However, the decision had a positive impact. In the weeks following entry to Tier 2 there was a significant flattening of the upward curve and regionally, Essex’s case rate reduced, from being in the top three council areas to the bottom two.
“Following national lockdown, we saw infection rates in other counties respond more quickly than ours, but both case rates and hospital occupancy are now stable.
“The government’s new tiering criteria are more stringent than those that we left behind.
“We recognise that there is still work to be done. We understand that going back into Tier 2 will be hard for many, but we must all work together, follow the restrictions in order to save further lives and continue to protect our NHS.
“We have a clear incentive. Our aim is to bring the rate of transmission and covid hospital occupancy down so that Essex can be placed in the lowest tier of restrictions as quickly as possible. With the help of everyone who lives and works here we can achieve this. Now more than ever, we need people to follow the rules of hand, face, space, work from home if possible, and always socially distance”
However, the leader of Thurrock Council has expressed his disappointment.
Cllr Rob Gledhill had written to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock earlier in the week requesting that Thurrock stay in Tier One.
He said: “Although this was not the most desirable outcome, we will be working with partners to move out of Tier 2 as quickly as possible.”
The Government is expected to review the new national tier system every two weeks.
For more information on the new tier system, visit the GOV.UK website.