Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan has officially lodged a request for schools across the borough to close next week.

In a letter to Essex County Council’s public health director, Dr Mike Gogarty, the Labour council boss said: “I believe we should be encouraging schools to do the same as universities and end their winter term early.

“They would be able to continue to teach remotely and key workers’ children would be able to attend school.

“By taking this action now and encouraging schools to close on December 11 we would give the borough two weeks whereby the most infected age group could self isolate in a controlled environment.”

In the letter, Mr Callaghan also outlines a plan for Basildon’s manufacturing workers to be tested for coronavirus twice a week in a bid to keep factories working.

He added: “We shouldn’t cripple the economy and break up households at Christmas with a tiering system that doesn’t work.

“There must be more flexibility in the system. In Basildon we have two major issues; schools and the shop floor. We also have the means to solve both issues.”

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.

“We all need to play our part and follow the social distancing rules to help get infection levels down so that as lockdown restrictions ease, we are keeping ourselves and those around us at home, work or school safe.”

Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, added: “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.