The number of people in hospitals in south and mid Essex with coronavirus has reached its highest point in more than a year.

The latest NHS data shows there were 310 patients with the virus across Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals as of Tuesday last week.

It’s the first time the total has exceeded 300 since February 19, 2021.

The number of patients with the virus at the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust has risen by 102 since the same day the week before.

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The number of beds across the three hospitals occupied by people who tested positive for Covid-19 has more than tripled in the last four weeks – 28 days ago, there were 98.

But while the numbers are rising, more encouraging data shows only two of the existing 310 patients with coronavirus are being treated on a ventilator.

The number of Covid-19 patients hospitalised nationally has increased by 46 per cent in the last four weeks, while the number on mechanical ventilators has decreased by five per cent.

It comes amid a sharp rise in Covid cases across south Essex.

More than a dozen neighbourhoods are recording more at least 100 new infections a week, while there were more than 1,700 cases in both Basildon and Southend in the previous seven days.

Testing for Covid-19 will no longer be free from Friday, with people instead needing to pay for a test.

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Downing Street says there is no plan to change this approach despite rising case numbers across England.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “So there’s no plans to change our approach.

“You’ll know the significant cost – billions of pounds we are spending every month providing free testing to the public – and because of vaccines, therapeutics and other means we are now in a vastly different position to where we were when we first started providing free testing.

“We’ve said that from April 1 these tests will only be available for free to certain groups and there will be… DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) will set out the detail in coming days.”