Following on from their discussions last week and further work linking in with Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care, Essex County Council (ECC) have asked the Secretary of State for Health for Essex to be moved to the Higher level of Covid-19 restrictions from its current Medium level.
Today in the Secretary of State for Health’s statement to the Commons, he confirmed the Government’s agreement to ECC’s proposal that Essex moves into Level High, and that it takes effect from midnight on Friday 16 October (Restrictions will apply from 00:01 Saturday morning).
This area includes Castle Point, Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Colchester, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Tendring & Uttlesford.
What does this mean?
This means on top of restrictions in alert level medium (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-medium):
- You must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
- You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other spaces like beaches or parks (other than where specific exemptions apply in law)
- Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law
- Certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am
- Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
- Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
- Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
- Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport
- You can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
- You must continue to wear a face covering in those areas where this is mandated Please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own to view when to wear a face covering, exemptions from wearing one, and how to make your own face covering.
You should continue to:
- follow social distancing rules
- work from home where you can effectively do so
- walk or cycle where possible, or plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport
To find out more in depth information about the measures that apply in high alert level areas to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-high.
Why does Essex want to go to Level 2 restrictions?
Essex County Council have said: "It was a very difficult decision. The people of Essex have done everything asked of them, but our rates are rising fast. If we don’t take action now, we will have more severe restrictions and they will last longer. With the numbers of COVID-19 cases increasing, the earlier action can be taken the quicker the numbers can be brought under control. Our aim is to ‘flatten the curve’ of new cases, and our modelling based on our analysis of the data suggests we can do this, and potentially come out of restrictions earlier. This is so we can protect lives, jobs businesses and enable us to return to lower restrictions as quickly as possible. It will also protect the NHS from being overwhelmed because hospital admissions are also rising again."
Essex County Council’s Rationale:
Cases of coronavirus are rapidly increasing all over Essex. Analysis has shown that all areas had moved to epidemic growth. This means that cases have been doubling every week. The places in Essex with the lowest rates are therefore only a week or so behind those with the highest rates, which are in turn are a week or so behind areas in the North and Midlands. ECC have compared these rates to those seen on the Government Watch list a month ago. The current levels in Essex are higher than many of the areas on that list at that time with all but one Essex district now being higher than Manchester was at that point. ECC believe that by moving to tier two sooner, the curve will turn quicker and the peak will be lower. This will reduce the time Essex spends within this tier, as well as the chances of the county needing to move to ‘Very High’. It is ECC intention to work rapidly to reduce the amount of time spent under tier two restrictions.
READ 'The data that shows why Essex need a 'High' COVID-19 alert level': https://www.essex.gov.uk/news/the-data-that-shows-why-we-need-a-high-co…
Leader of Essex County Council, Cllr David Finch, who also Chairs the Essex Covid-19 Engagement Board, said: “By acting now, we can hope to stem this increase, limiting the time that we are in these enhanced restrictions and – above all – avoiding further escalation into ‘Very High’. All of this will limit the damage to the economy; a healthy economy is critical to everyone having better lives in future. We already have one of the best track and trace operations in the country, but we will also be aiming to push its performance still higher alongside strengthening enforcement capacity and visibility. Making these painful decisions now will, we hope, bring dividends later.”
ECC website shows the number of cases in Essex is low. What are the current cases and how do they compare to others in level high?
Rates change quickly and are doubling every week. Currently the highest levels in Essex are around 85 and the lowest 35. However, only 10 days ago the highest levels in Essex would have been around 35. It is very likely all levels will exceed 100 over the next 2-3 weeks and be comparable with the rates in Northern England.
How many cases are in hospital?
The latest data (15th October 2020) is that 87 beds Essex acute beds are occupied by people with coronavirus, this was 45 last Friday. There were often no beds occupied by someone with coronavirus a month ago.
Why will Southend and Thurrock remain at alert level medium, whereas Castle Point will move to alert level high?
This is because Southend and Thurrock are under different unitary local authority and their Councils have not applied for tier two measures.
How long will Essex be in the new Tier Two Level?
All areas will be reviewed every 14 days, regulations will be reviewed every 28 days, and will expire after 6 months
What does this mean for my childcare provision?
There are exceptions from legal gatherings limits for registered childcare, education or training, and supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups. This means you can continue to use early years and childcare settings, including childminders, after-school clubs and nannies. See guidance on working safely in other people’s homes at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes.
The following people can provide childcare support in private homes and gardens:
- registered childcare providers, including nannies
- people in your support bubble
- people in your childcare bubble
A childcare bubble is where someone in one household provides informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household. For any given childcare bubble, this must always be between the same 2 households.
Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home to help with childcare. Childcare bubbles are to be used to provide childcare only, and not for the purposes of different households mixing where they are otherwise not allowed to do so.
I was classed as a vulnerable person – will I need to shield again?
Currently there is no change as a result of the move to level high that impacts on people who were previously advised to Shield. If you need further advice or support please visit the Essex Wellbeing Service or call them on 0300 303 9988.
Can I see extended family if they don’t live with me?
No, unless it is someone from your support bubble. If you meet outside, the rule of six still applies.
Can I see my friends?
If you meet outside, the rule of six still applies. You can’t meet anyone indoors who is not part of your household (i.e. they live with you) or your support bubble.
Does this change how/where I can travel and can I do overnight stays?
There are no restrictions on travel, so you can continue to visit attractions or venues in your area. The general advice is to minimise journeys. There are no restrictions on overnight stays under high level restrictions.
Can I still go to pubs or restaurants?
Yes, but only with someone from your own household/support bubble if you are inside. Outside, the rule of six still applies.
Will I still be able to go to work?
Yes, but the advice continues to be to work from home if you are able to.
Will my children be able to go to school/college?
Yes, schools, colleges and early years settings will remain open. It is important that we do all we can to enable children and young people to continue with their education. We know that this has long-term impacts on health, job prospects and life chances more generally.
Universities are open, but are there any new restrictions for high alert level areas?
You can move home and travel to go to university but there are some stricter rules in place for areas in high alert level areas:
- You must not move backward and forward between your permanent home and term time address during term time – subject to limited exemptions set out in law.
- Students living at their university term time address in a high alert level area should follow the same guidance on meeting other people and travel as others in that area.
Commuter students (those who live at a family home and travel to/from university each day) should be able to continue to travel to/from their university as required, this being for education purposes. If you commute into a high alert level area to go to university you must not:
- meet people you do not live with in their home inside the area, unless they’re in your household, childcare or support bubble
- host people you do not live with in your home, if they live in the affected area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble
- meet people you do not live with in their student halls, whether inside or outside of the area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble
If you move out of, or currently live outside of, an affected area you should not host people you do not live with in your home or student halls if they live in a high alert level area (unless they’re in your household, support bubble or childcare bubble)
Can I still go to parks/open spaces/the seaside?
Yes, under medium and high level restrictions. Only under very high level rules, there are restrictions on non-essential travel.
Can I still go to the shops?
Yes. Supermarkets and shops remain open under high level restrictions.
Will I still need to wash my hands, wear a face covering, and keep two metres apart?
Yes. All of the hands, face, space advice still applies. It is really important that we all continue to do all we can, to maintain social distancing, wash our hands and wear masks in public.
Will Council services be affected?
No, other than changes which need to be made to ensure any enhanced social distancing arrangements.
Will Essex County Council receive any additional funding by moving to a high level restriction status?
No. The Government announced a further £1bn of funding for local authorities in the House of Commons on Monday as an extension of the general package of support it has provided to local authorities to date. This is in addition to more than £3bn announced to date to support local authorities during the pandemic.
The grant funding is to support essential council services – this is completely separate to, and not dependent upon, the decision around moving to level 2 restrictions. ECC expect the allocation to be consistent with previous emergency grants – that is irrespective of the restriction status.