CORONAVIRUS could be spreading faster in Southend than anywhere else in Essex, according to an analysis of daily lab tests across the country.

The research found the R-rate, which indicates how quickly a virus is spreading in a certain area, is now sitting at 0.84 in Southend – the highest in the county.

But council bosses have disputed the research claiming it has used inaccurate data and Southend’s infection rate is believed to be in line with the rest of the county.

However, the research sparks concerns that people heading to the seafront, at times from across the country, could help the virus spread.

New data - presented on crowdsharing research platform Deckzero – shows that Southend not only has one of the highest Rrates in the county but that it also shot up to 0.99 last Sunday.

However, councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in the borough, has rejected the claims.

He said: “We haven’t got official figures from Public Health England for Southend yet but we have been under the impression that we are around average for Essex.

“The R-number is to do with the regeneration of the infection, how quickly it is infecting other people.

“I would be very surprised if this research is accurate to say it was 0.99 for this Sunday as most data on this lags behind by around a fortnight, it is possible we had an increase on the VEDay weekend.

“You have to keep in mind that this virus has an incubation period of anything from five to ten days. It can take that long for someone to show symptoms and then they have to have a test which can take up to 48 hours to report back, so I would not expect if someone was exposed during the weekend for those figures to be available Friday morning.

“It is unlikely I would have thought.”

He further explained that one of the flaws of the research is it had looked at daily lab test results.

Southend has a testing centre set up at the airport and if lab test results from there were taken into consideration, Mr Harp said you would be looking at the result for a large part of south Essex because it is not just Southend residents who are tested there.

The research does also indicate the number has fallen dramatically over the last month when compared to what appears to be the local peak in late March and early April.

At that time, the Rrate was as high as three.