Southend Council is urging local people to stay at home and visitors to stay away to help protect lives and to protect the NHS following an exponential rise in positive coronavirus cases.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning (December 30), the Essex Resilience Forum (ERF) – which is made up of local authorities, emergency services and the NHS – announced a major critical incident across Essex as hospital admissions and positive cases continue to rise across the county. Positive cases across the borough also continue to rise rapidly.
Within the existing Tier 4 Government restrictions, people should stay home, and although allowed to leave their homes for essential shopping and for exercise, should stay local. However, over the last few days there has been a huge increase in the number of people visiting the seafront, including large numbers of people from outside the borough.
As the local health service is facing unprecedented challenges with the exponential rise in positive coronavirus cases, the council is taking measures to prevent large crowds gathering in visitor hotspots, particularly the seafront.
With this in mind, and with large numbers expected to be out on walks over the new year period, the council will be closing all seafront car parks, along with suspending all seafront parking spaces from tonight.
A list of closed car parks and suspended parking bays are as follows:
- Belton Bridge bays
- Belton Gardens South car park
- Belton Gardens North car park
- Chalkwell Esplanade bays
- Eastern Esplanade bays
- Fairheads Green car park
- Gas Works car park
- Ness Road bays
- Seaway car park
- Shoebury Common North car park
- Shoebury Common South car park
- Shoebury East Beach car park
- Thorpe Esplanade bays
- Thorpe Esplanade car park
- Victoria Wharf car park
- Western Esplanade bays
- Leigh Foundry car park
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “We have all endured such a challenging year, and I am so proud of how our residents have risen to the challenges put before them. However, locally and regionally we have seen rapid rise in cases, and we must act now to protect our local NHS.
“A major incident has been declared, and this means we have to take responsible action, and so the decision has been made to close all seafront car parks to deter too many visitors coming into the area at this time.
“The announcement made by the Essex Resilience Forum amplifies the necessity to follow the rules. NHS and social care staff are already working at full capacity, and rising hospital admissions is only exacerbating this problem.
“We certainly did not wish to be in this position, but it is unfortunately necessary to send a strong message to deter any gatherings and reduce crowding on the seafront, particularly over the New Year period. We must do everything we can to reduce the opportunities for infection. Therefore, please don’t visit Southend, stay away, stay at home and save lives.”
Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety, said: “It is absolutely essential that any potential visitors adhere to this message.
“I know that it has been an incredibly challenging year for us all, but following an increase in visitors in recent days, we must take action. We are continuing to work closely with Essex Police and anyone found to be breaking the rules in place could face a fine and we are stepping up community safety patrols in busy and popular areas.
“With the declaration of a major incident, this current situation has gone far and beyond what we experienced earlier this year, and although we are a seaside tourist town, we want to protect local people and therefore do not currently want to see any visitors. The message is clear. Stay home and stay local.
“Our message to local residents is also please stay home and when you do go out, please stay local by enjoying exercise in the areas close to you for example. Please also only do this with people from your household/support bubble, or one other person. Do not gather in groups.
“I know this New Year’s Eve will be also be very different, as it was for us all at Christmas, but it is vital we do not let our guard down now and continue to work together to reduce the spread of infection and protect our loved ones.”