The rate of infection in Epping Forest is above 500 for the first time since December and the second peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Case numbers across Essex are surging in what appears to be a growing third wave of the virus, however hospitalisations and deaths remain relatively low compared to the second wave last winter.

Between July 8 – 15 there were 659 newly recorded cases of Covid-19 in Epping Forest marking the district’s infection rate at 500.4 – expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

The week prior the infection rate was 350.1 after 461 new infections were posted.

The last time the district’s seven-day rolling infection rate was above 500 was December 4 – 11 last year, as the second wave ripped through the country spiralling hospitalisations and virus-related deaths. By mid-December the infection rate had climbed above 1,000.

At this point there was an average of 10 Covid hospital admissions at the Princess Alexandra Hospital per week and Epping Forest was average 1 – 2 deaths a week.

Currently NHS data shows about 1 – 1.5 hospitalisations a week and no deaths since March 24.

Deaths are climbing faster in other areas of the country; the number of deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales is at its highest level since the end of April.

A total of 183 deaths registered in the week ending July 9 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics.

This is up 68 per cent on the previous week, and is the highest number since 205 deaths were registered in the week to April 30.

The latest figures are likely to reflect the impact of the third wave of Covid-19. The number of deaths is still well below the level seen at the peak of the second wave, however.

In Harlow the rate of infection has climbed to 466.3 for the seven days to July 15 after 406 new cases were confirmed – up from 308 cases the week before, equating to an infection rate of 353.8.

Of the 315 local areas in England, 97 per cent have seen a week-on-week rise in rates; just eight have seen a fall in cases.

Essex district Castle Point experience the fifth biggest week-on-week rise in England surging from a rate of 224.6 to 638.4.

With most restriction on social gathering and businesses lifted yesterday (July 19) in what was dubbed ‘freedom day’ by the Government, Essex County Council has moved to allay residents’ fears over potential dangers of ‘normality’ resuming.

In a statement released on July 19, a council spokesperson said: “For some, today will be a welcome relief. For others, it may feel daunting now that it is down to individuals to manage the risk to themselves and others. Both of these feelings are completely normal and we are here to support you as we learn to live safely with Covid-19 together.

“It is important that everyone continues to take sensible steps to stay safe. The Government has shared new guidance to help people manage the risk of Covid-19 in the most appropriate way for them and those around them.”

The guidance:

• meet in ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open

• wear a face covering when seeing people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces

• wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly

• cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze

• stay at home if you are unwell to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses

• consider individual risks, such as existing conditions and vaccination status