Essex town’s worrying covid spread could be traced back to schools

Nearly half of new cases in Essex’s worst-hit area can be tracked back to schools, new data suggests.

Those between the ages of 10 and 18 are being told to stringently follow social distancing guidelines ahead of tomorrow’s (Wednesday, December 2) lockdown ease.

From 12.01am tomorrow, the entirety of Essex will revert back to a Tier 2 lockdown, banning indoor household mixing and limiting outdoor gatherings to six people.

However, experts are warning teenagers from Essex’s Covid hotspots – especially Basildon, Essex – to follow the rules to the letter to try and curb a worrying spike in cases.

Basildon currently has the highest rate of infections in Essex, and new data has shown that there has been a clear rise in case in the 10-18-years-old age range.

The data suggests that 40 per cent of new cases in Basildon can be tracked to schools.

However, it is important to note that those that have tested positive, and included in school figures, may have been infected outside of education environments.

Cllr John Spence

Because of this, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care John Spence has said that families in Basildon need to “be more careful than ever” regarding coronavirus.

Cllr Spence said: “The rise in coronavirus in Basildon is a sobering reminder that there is still work to be done to contain the spread.

“Basildon residents, and particularly families with school-age children or young adults at home, need to be more careful than ever to help us halt this rise.

“Please work from home wherever you can.

“Stay 2m apart from other people – always assume the person you are near may be infected.”

To see coronavirus statistics in your area, type your postcode below.

This message has been echoed by Basildon’s two MPs – the member for Basildon and Billericay John Baron and the member for South Basildon and East Thurrock Stephen Metcalfe.

John Baron said: “Essex County Council’s Public Health team are closely monitoring the position in Basildon, along with the borough council, and will take all the necessary steps, including working with parents, schools and youth organisations and offering increased testing to tackle the infection rate in Basildon.

“We all need to play our part and follow the social distancing rules to help get infection levels down so that as lockdown restrictions ease, we are keeping ourselves and those around us at home, work or school safe.”

Stephen Metcalfe added: “Basildon’s residents and businesses have done so much over many months to keep infection rates down, but faced with increasing case levels, we must not be complacent.

“People of all ages must play their part, keep socially distanced, and remember the hands-face-space rules.

“If we do then we can begin to impact the infection levels we are currently seeing and make sure that local NHS services, in turn, have enough capacity to deal with the increased demand we see during the busier winter months.”

In response to the soaring rates, a mobile testing unit has been deployed to Basildon, with large employers in the town due to receive lateral flow tests in the coming weeks.

Tests are also being distributed to parents of schoolchildren in badly hit areas to test their own children.

Texts from Essex’s Track and Trace system have been sent to those who may have come into contact with infected people from Basildon, urging them to get a Covid-19 test immediately.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “We need Basildon residents to play their part and follow the rules at home or outdoors.

“This is even more important with national lockdown restrictions ending on Wednesday, when Basildon will be in Tier 2.

“If you have any symptoms of Coronavirus, please self-isolate and get a test straight away.

“If you come into contact with a positive case, you should also self-isolate and if offered a test via local Track and Trace, make sure you take it – this could reduce your period of self-isolation.

“We know that if everyone follows these rules and plays their part in reducing the spread that we can reverse this worrying increase.”

Earlier today, Basildon Council leader Cllr Gavin Callaghan wrote to Essex County Council’s Director of Public Health Dr Mike Gogarty urging him to push for the closure of all schools in Basildon.

He also made it clear that Cllr Callaghan would fight any move to put Basildon into Tier 3 if the rest of the county was to stay in Tier 2.

To find out more, click here.

Essex Live