County council bosses appear to have admitted defeat in their fight to move to less stringent Covid rules before Christmas.

Essex County Council had hoped for the county to move into Tier 1 from Tier 2 when the first re-evaluation of the strategy on December 16.

But as a result of rising cases in Basildon, and indeed Harlow, the rate of infection across Essex has been skewed, leaving the overall county rate “higher than we would wish for”.

In Basildon, the most up to date infection rate is 293.8 per 100,000 population, after 550 new cases were confirmed in the most recent seven-day period.

In comparison, the rate in Colchester is 71.9 while Tendring’s is 58.7.

The overall Essex rate is 138.

A county hall spokesman said: "While we had made the case for Essex re-entering Tier One following lockdown, we could not disagree with the government’s decision. Overall, the Essex infection rate is higher than we would wish, or than they would consider for Tier One, at 138 per 100,000.

“However, this masks difference across the county. We will work with the districts who already have lower rates to keep them there; support those districts where rates are already falling significantly; and focus on the districts where rates are rising, very high already and those where the rate is reducing more slowly than we would like or has stalled.

“Our goal will be to enter Tier One as soon as we can, but we will push Government on this only when we are confident about so doing.”