Essex's director of public health, who led the county's fight against Covid-19, has retired.

Essex County Council has announced that Dr Mike Gogarty will be replaced by Dr Lucy Wightman, who is currently director of public health in North and West Northamptonshire.

Dr Gogarty became the face of public health messaging in the county during the pandemic.

He has also been outspoken in the challenges which Essex faces beyond the coronavirus - highlighting gaps in life expectancy and deepening poverty levels in parts of the county.

Dr Gogarty said that his greatest achievement has been his role in the creation of a Cardiothoracic Centre in Basildon, which provides specialist diagnostics treatment to people with heart and lung diseases.

At an Essex County Council meeting on Thursday, February 10, the councillor responsible for health and adult social care, Cllr John Spence, said Dr Gogarty has saved lives.

Cllr Spence said: "Dr Gogarty became the calm but stark reassuring voice of the pandemic across the county.

"I have no doubt that the way in which he handled himself caused us to accelerate our own solutions and precautions, and the work he did to influence the whole system in a combined response to Covid.

"And the work he did to improve the accelerations of vaccination, testing, track and trace all would have contributed to saving lives across the county.

"If we were only to judge Mike Gogarty in the last couple of years, we would miss a great deal."

Dr Gogarty started work as a GP more than 40 years ago.

He has worked in public health roles since 1994, and became Essex's director of public health in 2013.

In the role, he was responsible for determining the overall vision and objectives for public health in Essex, including health protection.

Dr Wightman will join Essex County Council in April.

She said: "In my six-and-a-half years working in Northamptonshire, I've had amazing support from staff in public health, and many colleagues across the health and care system.

"I will miss them all but I'm looking forward to a new challenge.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the best of luck for the future."