Fewer than 100 people have signed an open letter calling for residents to respect lockdown rules – 14 of whom are councillors.

Five days on from the publication of the letter, written by council leader Cllr Christ Whitbread, just 91 people had signed to “pledge their support to the principles of the letter”.

This represents a measly 0.07 per cent of Epping Forest’s approximate population of 130,000.

The letter can be signed on the council's website, but so far few residents have done so to declare their support.

In the open letter, Cllr Whitbread called for residents to follow the Government’s rules and guidelines to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

He said: “So far in this second national lockdown, it is apparent that too many people in our district are refusing to follow the rules.

Not enough people are wearing masks, social distancing, or isolating themselves when they have the disease. On social media we read a stream of Covid-sceptic comments and anger at those people trying to get the scientific messages across.

“I know that people are tired of the restrictions. We do not give up our personal freedoms and liberties lightly!”

The leader explained that most recent statistics show Covid continues to be “rife” in the community.

He added: “Not everyone is breaking the rules. I want to thank everyone who is taking the precautions seriously.

"But it’s up to each and every one of us.

"Let the infection rate rise through your behaviour and let the virus spread – but do so in the knowledge that you will be prolonging the pain of closed shops, gyms, pubs and restaurants – greater restrictions on seeing family and friends over Christmas, filling Princess Alexandra and Whipps Cross hospitals with more Covid patients, and attending more funerals."

The rate of infection in the district remains above 200 new cases per 100,000 residents despite falling recently.

In the seven days to November 19 (the latest available accurate data) there were 268 newly confirmed infections in Epping Forest – a rate of 203.5 per 100,000.

The week prior the rate of infection stood at 230.1 (303 new cases).

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