Council bosses have warned they will not shy away from ramping up enforcement against people and businesses refusing to follow new rules as most of Essex goes under new Covid-19 restrictions.

The changes only apply to areas covered by Essex County Council, not Southend, where mixing with other households will still be permitted.

And Ian Gilbert, Southend Council leader, admitted there is a risk of “rule breakers” flocking to Southend to enjoy time in groups as they cannot do it in other parts of Essex.

Labour council boss Mr Gilbert said: “I hope the new restrictions will be effective and I appreciate the situation Essex County Council is in and I think it will make a difference but to what extent remains to be seen.

“In Southend we are guided by the number of cases in the coming weeks and our ability to keep that as low as we can do. I want to avoid people coming into Southend from high risk areas.”

High risk areas now technically include areas such as Basildon and Rochford.

Mr Gilbert added: “It’s important our businesses follow the rules stringently and there is a risk of people coming into the borough but we will be quite firm with businesses.”

And referring to rules already in place in Southend, he added: “We’ve been educating businesses and will be processing tough enforcement if businesses do not do the right thing.”

A Southend Council spokesman added: “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.

“In terms of whether residents can travel from Essex into Southend to mix, the national guidance does not currently restrict this as the rule of six indoors still applies in Southend, although we are speaking to Essex County Council to ensure clarity on this.”

Norman Smith, Tory leader of Castle Point Council criticised Southend Council bosses for not following the vast majority of Essex in the move.

He said: “Most councils have agreed if we have a short sharp shock now it will help to, as best we can, reduce the risk of having more restrictions. In Castle Point we have businesses that will help us survive and this is why it’s important we are under the restrictions.

“I also think by reacting now we can help save some of the Christmas trade for businesses in our borough and I hope it will not be impacted by further restrictions later down the line.

“It’s not good for business, the public or being able to meeting up with small groups but hopefully later down the line we can look back and think it was the right decision.

“There is a risk to Southend that people will rush there to enjoy areas of fewer restrictions, but that is the risk of not following suit and joining the rest of the county.

“It may be lots of people go to Southend who would not have done so.

“It could be a risk to the area and short sharp shock would be better for everyone.”