"Harlow residents to play their part and follow the rules", is the message from Essex's director of public health after the town saw the third largest weekly increase in coronavirus cases in a week.

The latest data published by Public Health England has revealed a sharp increase in the R rate, with Harlow now having the second highest rate nationally.

County council officials believe "no specific key outbreaks" contributed to the rise and the growth in cases, which is spread across the whole town.

Dr Mike Gogarty, the county's director of public health, said: “We need Harlow residents to play their part and follow the rules at home or outdoors. This is even more important with national lockdown restrictions ending on Wednesday, when Harlow will be in Tier 2.

“We know that if everyone follows these rules and plays their part in reducing the spread that we can reverse this worrying increase.”

Epping Forest Guardian:

Dr Mike Gogarty

Cllr Mark Ingall, leader of Harlow Council and Councillor Andrew Johnson, the leader of the opposition, published a joint statement calling for residents to take action or "face tighter restrictions."

They said: “Harlow’s residents and businesses have done so much over many months to keep our town’s infection rates down, but now is not the time to stop keeping ourselves safe and neither is it a time to be complacent. We must focus on staying safe, taking care and continuing to do our bit indoors and outdoors to stop the spread."

Between November 19 – 26 there were 195 reported infections in Harlow, a rate of 224 per 100,000 people, up from 150 new cases the week before.

The town's jump in cases lags only behind Medway and Dover in Kent, which has been placed in Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.

Cllr John Spence, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for health, said: “It is of great concern to see a sharp rise in the transmission of coronavirus in Harlow and a sobering reminder that there is still work to be done to contain the spread.

“I am urging the people of Harlow to be more careful than ever to help us halt this rise. Please work from home wherever you can. Stay two metres apart from other people - always assume the person you are near may be infected.”

Testing kits will be available for Harlow residents who are identified as close contacts of anyone in Harlow who has tested positive via the Essex Track and Trace service. They will be in touch via phone or text message if you are a contact and need to get tested.

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