MASKS could be made mandatory in Southend before the end of the summer if Covid rates continue to rise, a medical boss has warned.

Covid cases in Southend have doubled in just over a week, with rates at 603 per 100,000 on July 20 – one of the highest rates in the east of England.

Currently 1,100 people have Covid in Southend.

Krishna Ramkhelawon, Southend’s director of public health, has now warned some restrictions, including mask wearing, could be reintroduced if cases don’t begin to fall.

He said: “It’s not great to see high rates. The rates have pretty much doubled since July 16.

“Whether we have a lockdown or not I don’t know, but if we have to face localised restrictions I wouldn’t be surprised.

“We could see restrictions and that could happen before the end of summer if the rates are going to carry on growing.

“We’re one of the highest in the east of England and it’s likely it’s going to continue going up over the next few days.

“There’s a clear challenge our community is facing.”

Mr Ramkhelawon said any further restrictions would depend on guidance from central government on what action local authorities can take.

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Covid rates in Basildon remain slightly lower at 565 per 100,000, but Essex County Council’s public health boss, Mike Gogarty, is confident there will not be a need for further restrictions in the town.

He also revealed that most patients in Basildon hospital with Covid have not been vaccinated.

He said: “I think the next few days are going to be critical in understanding what’s going to happen next.

“I think the case rates will level out in the next couple of weeks but it’s early days and still very precarious.

“I’m hopeful that unless there’s a new variant of concern that we won’t need to see any restrictions in place.”

Hospital admission rates have also doubled, causing major concerns for medical bosses.

There is currently 79 people in hospital with Covid under the mid and south Essex trust - with 31 cases in Southend hospital alone.

Despite rising hospital admissions, Covid testing in Southend is falling.

Mr Ramkhelawon is considering introducing additional testing units.

He added: “Southend has got one of the lowest testing in east of England. The message is while people are not testing, they could be asymptomatic.

“Young people are not using LFT testing anymore and I think it’s because they’re getting bored.

“I’m worried people aren’t getting tested because they don’t want to get pinged.”

Mr Ramkhelawon is urging people to continue getting tested.