VAST parts of Essex could miss out on a move to lower Covid restrictions before Christmas because of the continued coronavirus infection rate rise in Basildon.

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

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, which county hall bosses have warned could be too high to realistically request a move into Tier 1.

A county hall spokesman said: “While we had made the case for Essex re-entering Tier 1 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 1, 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 1 as soon as we can, but we will push Government on this only when we are confident about so doing.”

Basildon Council boss Gavin Callaghan admitted a move to a lower tier before Christmas is unlikely but also cast fresh doubt over the tier system’s impact in south Essex.

He said: “The tier system focuses on hospitality while in our borough our rises are in schools and manufacturing businesses.

“We must be focussing on cutting those cases and deal with this to bring it down. We cannot be treated any differently from other areas. It’s not looking likely for us to go to a lower tier.

“I am focused on Basildon and think county of Essex owes us gratitude for having the Covid hospital and getting business going quickly.”

But Southend Council is not giving up hope.

Trevor Harp, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “We have entered Tier 2 restrictions which means people cannot mix indoors with others outside of their household or support bubble, and there are restrictions in the hospitality sector for example.

“We will continue to monitor our data and make the case to move to lower restrictions if and when the data warrants that.

He added: “But we have to be realistic about the fact the Government are taking a more centralised approach to this at the current time.”

It comes after the council council announced rapid tests for families in hot spots such as Basildon.