"Now, as never before, we need to pull together" – Epping Forest's council leader has issued a rallying cry as Essex moved into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.

At midnight on Friday the county moved into the high Covid alert level banning household mixing in homes, pubs and restaurants.

The move comes as infections levels rise across the county.

"These are tough times for everyone", Cllr Chris Whitbread said.

"The basic weapons in the war against Covid have not changed – follow the Hands, Face, Space advice. Wash your hands frequently, cover your face as much as you can, especially in public places, and try to maintain your distance."

"On top of that, try to minimise your travel. Work from home if you can. Try to walk or cycle where possible. Use public transport at less busy times when passengers can spread out."

The council leader also called for residents to continue to support local high streets to ensure businesses survive the winter second wave.

He added: "These are tough times for everyone. Now, as never before, we need to pull together and support each other as a community. Working through this together, we will get the virus back under control and get back on with our lives.

"It’s up to all of us, help each other, protect our loved-ones and defeat this virus."

Essex County Council leader Cllr David Finch welcomed the move, saying he felt the Government had made the correct decision "guided by the science".

"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", Cllr Finch said.

"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.

"These are difficult times, but I know that as a county we will come together to support and protect one another."

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