SOUTHEND coronavirus cases “peaked” last week and are now on the fall, according to the borough’s health boss.

Trevor Harp also said he knows businesses across borough will be “disappointed” Southend - along with all of Essex - has been placed into Tier 2 restrictions.

He said: “Southend-on-Sea has worked extremely hard as a community to prevent the spread of coronavirus and consequently has one of the lowest case rates in the country.

“I therefore know that many local businesses and residents will be disappointed that Southend-on-Sea will be placed in Tier 2 from next week.

“However, we have to acknowledge that only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly will be in the lowest level of restrictions and we have to accept the tier we have been placed in and that a regional approach has been taken.”

He added: “We saw a peak of cases last week, and have since seen a reduction of our case rate per 100,000 as the positive impact of national restrictions is seen.

“We hope that everyone keeps doing their bit, case rates fall further and we can get back into tier one restrictions as soon as possible.

“Going into Tier 2 will be hard for many, but we must all continue to work together, and follow the restrictions in place. This will help to prevent the spread of the virus, save lives and protect the NHS.

“As we have done throughout, we will continue to support our local community and local businesses through these difficult times and anyone struggling should visit our website for further information on the support and advice available to them.

Norman Smith, leader of Castle Point Council, praised the county council for proactively asking for Essex be placed in Tier 2 restrictions back in October.

He said: “The fact that we went into Tier 2 early has stopped us going into a higher tier and I am quite pleased about that.

“I think the way we were going, if we hadn’t gone into that tier, we would be in Tier 3 now. The trajectory was heading up in that direction and we slowed the curve early and that has helped.”

However, council leader Ian Gilbert was less sure the Tier 2 restrictions had much of an impact slowing the spread of the virus.

He added: “In terms of the Essex county area, some areas saw a reduction in cases when those Tier 2 measures came in but other parts of Essex continued to rise.

“Fortunately, I don’t think ay part of Essex has as serious a problem as parts of the country which have gone into Tier 3.”

Essex County Council voluntarily put the county into a higher tier of restrictions before the country was locked down earlier this month.

It had hoped the measure would help to halt rising infections rates more quickly and Essex would be returned to a freer life.

But yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly would be in the lowest Tier One set of restrictions with people in all other parts of England set to face more serious limits to their freedom.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier Three, although London will be in Tier Two.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “These are not easy decisions, but they have been made according to the best clinical advice.”

He told MPs in the Commons yesterday: “Thanks to the shared sacrifice of everyone in recent weeks in following the national restrictions, we have been able to start to bring the virus back under control and slow its growth, easing some of the pressure on the NHS.

“We will do this by returning to a regional tiered approach, saving the toughest measures for the parts of the country where prevalence remains too high.”