All of Essex is currently in Tier 4 and the south of the region has some of the worst-affected districts the UK has seen.
The Essex Resilience Forum (ERF) – which is made up of members of the NHS, emergency services and local authorities – said the number of patients in Essex receiving treatment for the virus had now increased to levels exceeding those seen at the peak of the first wave.
Chief constable of Essex Police and co-chair of the ERF, BJ Harrington, said: “Declaring a major incident enables us to seek further support from the Government to address the severe pressures which the health system is under because of Covid-19.
“The people of Essex have been magnificent and are only dialling 999 or attending A&E in an emergency – we need this to continue because this will help protect the very limited capacity available at our hospitals.”
It added that such numbers were expected to increase further in the coming days and that cases were particularly high in Mid and South Essex.
Areas of concern included critical care and bed capacity, staff sickness and the ability to discharge patients quickly into safe environments.
Anthony McKeever, executive lead for Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, said: “We are taking every action possible within the NHS and across the wider health and social care partnerships in Essex to limit the impact on the NHS and the wider health system.
Matt Hancock: ‘We are going to have to take further action’ due to rising Covid cases
“This involves using critical care capacity elsewhere in Essex and the Eastern region and identifying additional locations and capacity to assist with the discharging of patients to reduce pressure on hospitals.
“Our strong working relationships mean we are able to respond effectively to support our local communities.
“I would also like to pay tribute to all those hard-working colleagues who are working tirelessly to support our communities across the system.
“They are all doing an amazing job in extremely difficult circumstances.”