Council bosses have warned there is "no guarantee" proposed restrictions on household mixing will be lifted by Christmas.

But Essex County Council's health boss John Spence says bringing in tougher rules early will give the region the best chance to celebrate the festive season with loved ones.

County Hall has announced it will ask Health Secretary Matt Hancock to move Essex into the 'high' Covid alert level tomorrow.

The region is currently in the medium category as it has a low infection rate compared to other parts of the country.

But County Hall says it wants to take action now after seeing a surge in coronavirus cases in Essex in the past month.

Experts believe the county will likely be put into the 'high' alert level in the near future and fear hospitals could soon be filled with coronavirus patients.

Moving Essex into the second tier of restrictions would mean a ban on households mixing indoors.

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Speaking after plans for tougher rules were announced in a council meeting this morning, councillor Spence called on residents to get behind County Hall's attempts to suppress the virus and stop the rate of infection going up.

He said: "Everyone is tired of this pandemic and we all want it to be over. We are asking the people of Essex to go with us on this and help get the number of new cases down.

“We can’t promise this will be over before Christmas but we believe this will give us the best possible chance.

“It’s not a good thing that we are the first county to voluntarily want tougher restrictions but we are being courageous.

"We don’t want to wait on the national advice to go into the high category.

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

Mr Spence did warn there was "no guarantee" the proposed restrictions would help slow the rate of infection in Essex.

But he hoped it would halt the current trend and stop Essex being placed in the 'very high' alert level.

He added: “This will be a three pronged attack. We want the county to be moved in tier two, enhance the already excellent track and trace programme and have further enforcement.

“We have already held discussions with police about this but we hope people will comply without the need for fines.”

A decision on whether to move Essex into the 'high' alert level and impose household restrictions will be made later this week.