NEW restrictions which come into force across large parts of the county from tomorrow could be “the final straw” for some businesses, it has been warned.

Essex business boss Denise Rossiter has warned of a rise in unemployment across the county as a direct result of the new measures.

The ban on families mixing is likely to hit the hospitality industry the hardest as it relies on friends getting together for meals or drinks.

The request came from Essex County Council after Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex public health director, warned Essex is less than a month away from the level of infection currently seen in some of the worst hit areas.

He said if the county delayed going into tier two restrictions by just three weeks, on November 16, cases could peak at 12,000. Data published on Tuesday suggested Covid is increasing exponentially in the county with a doubling of the virus every few days.

On October 1, Essex had 15 cases per 100,000 in Chelmsford. On Monday the city had 65 cases per 100,000. This means that the case rates have increased by four times in just 11 days – an exponential rate of increase which is being seen across most of Essex.

Mike Gogarty, Essex public health director, said that without intervention now, in as a few as three weeks Essex will be in the same situation as the worst-most affected areas of the North and North East are today.

The worst of the Essex districts are worse than Bradford Oldham, Salford Preston Manchester or Newcastle were four weeks ago.

Dr Gogarty said: “There is no reason to assume that we won’t be in exactly the same position as these areas within three weeks if we don’t do something about it.”

Currently in Essex 62 acute beds are filled with Covid patients and since the beginning of September there have been 14 deaths.

In the past two weeks between September 29 to October 12 there have been six deaths in Basildon and Thurrock, one in Southend and two at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow.

Tendring is seeing the highest rate in Essex at 91.4 cases per 100,000, Epping Forest with 82 per 100,000, Brentwood with 84 per 100,000 and Uttklesford with 80 per 100,000.

Chelmsford has a rate of about 65 per 100,000.

Dr Gogarty has continually pressed the argument that the sooner the population goes in to tighter restrictions the sooner Essex can get out.

Her added: The very worst that will happen is Essex will spend two or three weeks longer in high level than it would have otherwise have had to and the best thing is we will save lives and stop hospital admissions.”

Ms Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are concerned local politicians have had to request that Essex is moved from the medium Covid level to the high level.

“Businesses in the county have worked hard to protect their staff, customers and the wider public by adopting suitable protective measures with training for employees to help fight the spread of this virus.

“They will never knowingly put people at risk.”

She added: “Government financial support has been helpful but cannot continue indefinitely and these new measures may be the final straw for some businesses who have to cease trading or make staff redundant and we should not be surprised to see unemployment rise in the county.

“We urge people to maintain social distancing, wear a face mask when necessary and to wash their hands to help bring infection levels down in Essex.”