THURROCK has higher rates of Covid-19 than its neighbours, but 60 per cent of hospital cases were admitted with other conditions, the borough’s director of public health has revealed.

Jo Broadbent gave an update on the figures to the council’s health and wellbeing committee last week.

She said: “We have the highest rate out of our near neighbours. It’s around 1,800 per 100,000 population at the moment. That is higher than it was last January.

“Our positivity rate has been over 40 per cent in the first couple of weeks of the year, the highest we’ve ever seen.”

Ms Broadbent said the rate of infection had just begun to show a downturn and Basildon Hospital was coping well. She added: “Despite having had the highest rates that we’ve had over the past few weeks, it hasn’t translated to the same level of pressure on the health and care system as it did last Christmas.

“We have had an increase in hospitalisation, but nowhere near to the same extent and the numbers requiring ventilation are much, much lower.

“Around 60 per cent of these Covid patients in hospital are diagnosed on admission. They are not in hospital because of Covid, they are there with something else and happen to have Covid.

“Those in critical care, some people have serious underlying conditions.”

Ms Broadbent told councillors vaccination rates had stalled.

She said: “Our vaccinations rates in Thurrock remain lower than many of our neighbours. We have the lowest uptake in Essex.

“We’ve been doing some work to try and address this.”

A new push will include employing “vaccine champions” with a £485,000 grant from the community vaccination champions fund. Weekend pop-up clinics are also planned with members of the national Surge Rapid Response team door-knocking residents around the clinics prior to the weekend to give advice.

Councillors heard Southend Council had nudged up numbers by advertising on pizza boxes.

Terry Piccolo, Conservative councillor for Stanford-le-Hope, suggested a free concert might be feasible. He said: “I am wondering whether or not they could put on a music concert in the open air sometime in early summer where, on proof of vaccination, entry is free