Residents across south Essex are being urged to continue to follow social distancing rules as lockdown eases today. 

People can now meet up with five others outdoors from today, while outside sports facilities and pitches have also reopened. 

Infection rates across the region remain relatively low, with dozens of areas recording fewer than three cases in the week ending March 23. 

But there are some areas which have seen a small rise in cases in that period, and now have rates of infection above 100 cases per 100,000 people. 

By contrast, the average infection rate in the UK is 56.4. 

Thurrock Gazette: Areas in blue have infection rates above 100, while those in dark green are between 50 - 100Areas in blue have infection rates above 100, while those in dark green are between 50 - 100

Here are the areas in south Essex with the highest infection rates:

  • Benfleet Appleton - 117.9
  • Westborough - 116.2
  • South Benfleet - 107.5
  • Canvey Island Newlands - 102.5
  • Chadwell St Mary - 87.1
  • Grays Town - 79.4

The easing of lockdown rules has seen the relaunching of open top buses on Southend seafront today. 

The warmer weather at the start of the coming week is expected to draw people to the area, including families making the most of the Easter holidays. 

But Southend's director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, is urging them to be cautious if they are meeting up with other households outside. 

Read more:

He said: "The second stage of the roadmap is now fast approaching and from Monday, March 29, the first day of the school Easter holidays, there is a further slight relaxation of restrictions as the rule of six or two households comes into effect.

"While this is exciting and we all want to return to normal, we do not want the number of cases to rise again locally.

"I urge you to stick to the national guidance and encourage you to keep up the good work and help Southend-on-Sea with a safe step out of lockdown."