COUNTY Hall has refused a concerned council leader’s demand to close schools early amid a surge in coronavirus cases in Basildon.

Basildon entered the top ten of most affected area in England on Friday after 588 new cases were recorded in previous seven days, bringing the borough's infection rate to 314.1 per 100,000 population.

It could see the borough plunged into Tier 3 restrictions.

Basildon Borough Council leader Gavin Callaghan met with Essex County Council on Friday after he called on County Hall to close schools early to stop the surge.

“I met with Essex County Council - their leader didn’t even turn up,” he said.

“They have told us that they refuse to back our calls for schools to close in Basildon for 4.5 days from December 11.

“They don’t have a plan. Just more chaos.

“Their approach is too slow and will lead to children being taken out of school with no online learning."

The decision comes despite Essex County Council writing to parents and carers of young people aged 10-19 attending Bromfords School and Basildon Lower Academy to ask them to arrange a PCR test for their child – regardless of whether their child is displaying Covid symptoms.

Gary Smith, headteacher of the Basildon Academies, also called for parents to play their part in fighting the rising rates in the borough, starting with finding asymptomatic cases.

Earlier this week, Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex County Council’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “We have always been guided by the data in terms of our Covid-19 response and it is absolutely vital that we take an informed and proportionate response in respect of schools."