PARENTS are set to be given rapid Covid testing kits for their children to help curb the spread of coronavirus in hotspots across Basildon.

The tests will be offered to parents of school pupils in areas with the greatest number of cases.

Although testing will not be made mandatory, parents will be encouraged to carry them out. A mobile testing unit will also be sent to Basildon and large firms will be first in line for tests in the coming weeks.

It comes as Basildon continues to see a worrying rise in case numbers, most especially in the ten-to-18 age group, with data suggesting up to 40 per cent of new cases are related to school settings.

The latest data published by Public Health England has revealed a sharp increase in the case rate, with Basildon now having one of the highest rates nationally at more than 285 cases per 100,000 of population.

Some 550 new cases were recorded in the most recent seven-day period.

John Spence, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, said: “The rise in coronavirus in Basildon is a sobering reminder that there is still work to be done to contain the spread.

“Basildon residents, and particularly families with school age children or young adults at home, need to be more careful than ever to help us halt this rise.”

Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex’s Director of Public Health, added: “We need Basildon 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 Basildon 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.”

Ray Gooding, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “Educational establishments across the county have put considerable effort and investment into reducing the risk of transmission.

“However, we know that case rates within secondary school aged children are increasing.

“We are appealing to parents of children and young people within this age range to ensure their children know the current guidelines and are adhering to them while outside of school.

"We know that this is a particularly difficult ask for young people, who may be finding being apart from friends and family tough. But we must all work together now so that we can be together again much quicker.”

John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, said: “Essex County Council’s Public Health team are closely monitoring the position in Basildon, along with the borough council, and will take all the necessary steps, including working with parents, schools and youth organisations and offering increased testing to tackle the infection rate in Basildon.”

Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, said: “Basildon’s residents and businesses have done so much over many months to keep infection rates down, but faced with increasing case levels, we must not be complacent. People of all ages must play their part, keep socially distanced, and remember the hands-face-space rules.