Essex County Council says that students have caused a misrepresentation of the true total number of cases in the area – but cases are still evidently rising in the area.

From the early hours of Saturday, new rules will be enforced meaning millions of people in London will not be able to mix socially indoors with people they don’t live with.

People will also be asked to avoid public transport when possible.

This comes after Essex County Council called to change tier from the ‘medium’ alert to ‘high alert’ earlier in the week.

The county council said that within a maximum of two weeks, the county will have reached the thresholds of Tier 2 anyway, and that asking for it now will soften the curve and avoid deeper restrictions later on.

To get into tier 2, there should be 100 new cases a week per 100,000 population.

But across the nation, cases are being misrepresented or ‘skewed’ by students moving to different locations, testing positive for Covid-19, and then referencing their home address rather than their student accommodation address.

This would class a new case at their home address location, rather than the area they are temporarily living in.

Essex County Council acknowledges this has been a problem from students living out of Essex – but that rates are still rising at an alarming scale regardless, as cases are clearly rising in older age groups as well as younger ages.

A spokesperson said: “It is true there are some problems relating to university students who test positive being assigned to their home address.

“However, we know this is not skewing our figures significantly for two reasons. Firstly, all age groups are showing exponential increases, not only the younger adults who make up the bulk of the university student population.

“Secondly, we are seeing steep increases in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital and covid-19 positive.

“The rising number of cases in Essex are real and the rise is exponential.”

Following the Government confirmation of Essex changing tier, leader of the council, Cllr David Finch, said: “We welcome the government’s announcement today regarding Essex moving to the high Covid alert level, which is clear recognition of the severity of the situation we find ourselves in as a county, and indeed across many parts of the country.

“We think the government has decided correctly and been guided by the science. The fact is that the number of cases in Essex is rising exponentially.

“We understand that the move to the high Covid alert level may affect people’s lives and businesses and we understand the very strong feelings about this. However, we have a duty of care to the people of Essex, and we firmly believe that this is the best route to minimise disruptions, to save lives - not just for those with the virus, but for other patients as well - and to protect businesses.

“More information is available on the GOV.UK website around specific restrictions which apply to the high alert level.

“These are difficult times for individuals, businesses and communities, but I know that as a county we will come together to support and protect one another – as we have done previously - and that acting sooner rather than later to curb the spread of Covid-19 is the right thing to do.”