TOUGH new restrictions on social interaction could be enforced in Essex as early as this weekend.

Essex County Council has confirmed it is requesting the region is moved into the 'high' Covid alert level in order to slow the rate of infection.

Bosses say it is likely much of Essex will be moved into the second tier of restrictions in the coming weeks anyway because of the increase in coronavirus cases seen in the county.

County Hall is expected to submit a formal request to move up to the 'high' alert level to Health Secretary Matt Hancock tomorrow (Wednesday, October 14).

He is then expected to make a decision on Thursday.

If the plans are approved, it is understood the new restrictions would likely be enforced at the weekend or early next week.

Essex County Council's health boss John Spence said: "It’s not a good thing that we are the first county to voluntarily want tougher restrictions but we are being courageous.

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"We don’t want to wait on the national advice to go into tier two, which we could do in a couple of weeks.

"The longer we leave it to take action, the higher the second peak is going to be to overcome.

"We want to get ahead of this so we can avoid going into tier three.

"There is no guarantee doing this will prevent us having more restrictions, but we believe this will give us the best possible chance."

The restrictions in areas which are placed in the 'high' Covid alert level include:

• People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place

• People must not meet in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or other space.

• People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.