SEVERAL areas in south Essex are now Covid blackspots on the Government’s cases map because infections are so high.

A new shade of colour has been added to the hotspots map to demonstrates areas with exceptionally high infection rates in the week ending December 18.

Rates in the areas blacked out are above 1,600 cases per 100,000 people.

Infection rates are based on the size of an areas population.

Thoe areas in south Essex that are blackspots are:


172 cases (up 120% in the last week)

Infection rate: 1,671

Rayleigh South East

130 cases (271% in the last week)

Infection rate: 1,604

Billericay Queen’s Park

124 cases (up 175% in the last week)

Infection rate: 1,700

Orsett, Bulphan and Horndon on the Hill

122 cases (up 154% in the last week)

Infection rate: 2,052

East Tilbury

125 cases (up 110% in the last week)

Infection rate: 1,847

Chafford and North Stifford

161 cases (up 83% in the last week)

Infection rate: 1,934

South Chafford

182 cases (up 175% in the last week)

Infection rate: 2,230

Purfleet, South Stifford and Lakeside

249 cases (up 167% in the last week)

Infection rate: 1,605

It comes as new data suggessOmicron may be less likely to lead to serious illness than the Delta variant of coronavirus.

But UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief executive Dr Jenny Harries has warned that it is too early to downgrade the threat from the new strain, which is still spreading rapidly across the UK.

Dr Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that more information is needed, particularly about the impact on elderly and more vulnerable patients.

She added: “There is a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat.”

The UKHSA estimates that someone with Omicron is between 31% and 45% less likely to attend A&E and 50% to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.

The rapid spread of Omicron has seen it become the “dominant strain now right across the UK”, and Dr Harries said cases are still doubling across “most regions” of the country.

She added: “What we have got now is a really fine balance between something that looks like a lower risk of hospitalisation – which is great news – but equally a highly transmissible variant and one that we know evades some of our immune defences, so it is a very balanced position.”