COLCHESTER is being unfairly punished for higher coronavirus infection rates in other parts of Essex, town leaders have claimed.

The whole of Essex, as well as Southend and Thurrock, has been placed into Tier 2 of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The biggest impact for businesses will be felt by the hospitality sector, with pubs and restaurants only able to open if they serve a “substantial meal” with alcohol.

Read more >>> Essex placed into tier 2 of Covid restrictions

Colchester’s infection rate is sitting at 69.8 cases per 100,000 people.

The latest figures, for the seven days to November 22, show there were 136 cases confirmed in the borough over seven days.

Tendring’s infection rate is 71 per 100,000 people.

By comparison Basildon’s infection rate, of 274.6 cases per 100,000 people, is almost four times Colchester’s.

Sam Good, manager of Our Colchester Business Improvement District, said the move felt like an “injustice for Colchester”.

“It feels like we are being punished because Essex has areas close to London with higher infection rates,” he said.

“Cases are much lower in Colchester than other parts of Essex and in Tendring are some of the lowest in the country.

“We asked for our part of Essex to be considered separately because of our lower rates but we haven’t been listened to.”

Read more >>> Updates as Essex waits to find out which tier it will be in

Mr Good said the BID had prepared for the scenario and all its planned Christmas activities would go ahead.

He said: “The positive is retailers can reopen but I am really worried about our hospitality businesses.

"Our night time economy is really going to struggle and it is a huge part of Colchester.”

He added: “We hope the Tier can be reviewed as soon as possible and we will be pushing hard with Essex County Council to get this changed.”

Leader of Colchester Council Mark Cory said he wasn’t surprised by the decision but it was disappointing Colchester was “lumped” in with other areas.

“Colchester rates have been up and down but recently we have been doing well,” he said.

“The greatest numbers of Covid are in the south of Essex but we get lumped together.

“The government says it is being cautious this time, as they know they acted too slow on the second wave.

“Furthermore, we wouldn’t be in this mess, seeing death rates now as high as the first peak, if the government had actually got test and trace working and not wasted billions on faulty PPE and their Conservative contacts and middle-man consultants.

“Meanwhile, our businesses and local economy are really suffering.

“I feel for the hospitality industry and others left with little light at the end of the tunnel.

“Things may improve if the government allows us to do rapid testing and tracing locally.”

David Burch, director of policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce and Industry, described the decision as a “kick in the teeth” for Essex firms.

He said: “It is very disappointing and it is going to continue to hit the hospitality sector hard with pubs in particularly severely effected. It won’t just affected them, but the businesses in their supply chain.

“One of the problems is it gives out a bit of a negative impression about doing business in Essex.

“Business owners have done everything they have been told by the Government to keep staff and customers safe and this feels a bit like a kick in the teeth.”

He added: “We would urge residents to think about visiting their local businesses this festive season.

"These businesses, particularly the independents, are the heart of our towns and need support.”

Essex County Council, which requested the area be placed into Tier 2 before the second national lockdown, had hoped the county could return to Tier 1 restrictions from December 2.

But John Spence, councillor responsible for adult social care and health, said the Government’s new tiering criteria was stricter than before.

He added: “We understand going back into Tier 2 will be hard for many, but we must all work together, follow the restrictions in order to save further lives and continue to protect our NHS.

“We are committed to supporting residents and businesses through these unprecedented times. We have a clear incentive.

“Our aim is to bring the rate of transmission and Covid hospital occupancy down so that Essex can be placed in the lowest tier of restrictions as quickly as possible.”

Read more >>> Essex County Council aiming for Tier 1 Covid restrictions