Upturn in coronavirus deaths in Essex

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There was a surge in Essex Covid-19 deaths around three weeks after thousands flocked to the county’s beaches, new data shows.

But health officials say the recent uptick in the number of Covid-19 deaths in mid and south Essex is due to a delay in reporting, rather than an increased spread of the virus.

The seven day rolling average for mid and south Essex had fallen to a low of 1.14 deaths per day on June 14, from a peak of 24 a day on April 12.

However, since then it has been creeping up again – by June 25 the seven day rolling average had doubled to 2.85 deaths a day.

The upturn in the number of deaths came about three weeks after thousands flocked to Southend beach on May 20.

Families were pictured attempting to stay two metres apart as temperatures hit 25C and Southend Council introduced a series of ‘mitigation’ measures, including one way queuing for toilets.

A spokesman for the public health teams supporting mid and south Essex said: “Overall the number of coronavirus illnesses in the region continues to fall in line with the national trend.

“The recent slight increase in daily totals is a result of a small number of previous Covid-19 deaths being included in the daily totals. The delay in including these deaths can be for a number of reasons, such as the need to inform the next of kin of the cause of death.

“It is essential however that people continue to follow social distancing measures and avoid unnecessary travel in order to minimise the risk of catching or spreading the virus.”

But despite the lockdown measures the RNLI Southend on Sea volunteer lifeboat crews were paged 23 times in the month of May – the highest number of launches for Southend Lifeboat in May for seven years.

Concern is now growing that people are no longer adhering to guidance.

After large crowds again flocked to beaches across the UK on Thursday last week, Boris Johnson warned people needed to understand that “mingling too much” could set the UK back.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “It is understandable that people want to enjoy the sunshine and councils are working hard to reopen public spaces and find safe ways to help people enjoy good weather this summer. However, lives depend on all of us taking personal responsibility for our actions. Some of the scenes we have seen in recent days have been unacceptable.

“When large numbers of people head to the coast there is inevitably a risk of overcrowding and an increase in the rate at which Covid-19 could be transmitted.

“It is hugely difficult for a council to keep beaches open to the public while also limiting the number of people who visit. Closing beaches in one area may also simply shift the problem elsewhere.”

He added: “Councils and the emergency services cannot be left to manage this issue alone. The Government can help councils by stepping up efforts to educate the public on the specific risks posed by ignoring social distancing in tourist environments.

“Rail companies need to enforce rules around face coverings on public transport and, alongside Highways England, can help control numbers by using signage to give plenty of warning about overcrowding so people can change plans.

“It would be a tragedy if our collective efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 are undone in a way that leads to a resurgence of this deadly virus that puts further lives at risk.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter