Matt Hancock has admitted that he is concerned about the soaring number of coronavirus cases in some parts of Essex.
The Health Secretary said a decision will be made about Essex’s tier level next Wednesday, December 16.
Essex could be bumped up into Tier Three if the infection rate is deemed too high.
Basildon, in particular, is facing very high numbers of positive tests – the third highest in the whole country.
Essex County Council leader David Finch claims Tier 3 would be a “disaster” for Essex – causing a huge damage on the economy with little impact on the rising infection rates.
Speaking at this evening’s coronavirus Downing Street briefing (Thursday, December 10), Matt Hancock said : “We will look at the most up to date data we have on the 16th, next Wednesday. That is the moment we will take a formal review and make a formal decision.
“I do not think it is right to preempt that decision.
“However, having said that, of course we do look at the data daily and we have seen those worrying rises not just in London but other parts of the South East and East of England as well.
“These decisions are what we think are necessary of suppressing the virus until the vaccine can make us safe.”
It was also confirmed that secondary school pupils in the worst hit parts of Essex will be tested for covid, even without symptoms.
Professor Chris Whitty added: “Of course we are concerned, anyone in that area is going to be concerned.
“If we don’t do a sufficient amount of things to suppress the virus, the rate will start to go up.
“We need to look very seriously in these areas and we need to ask ourselves if there are enough measures going in or do we need to have more. And that’s something ministers will look at next week.”