Cllr Jim Dickson is the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care (job-share) and a councillor in Herne Hill.
From today Lambeth residents are going to have to get used to a new set of Covid rules to prevent community transmission with gatherings of more than six now illegal and with councils asked to deploy marshals (with no extra budget to cover the cost) to help police the new social distancing arrangements.
Coinciding with these new rules, COVID-19 rates in across London have seen a significant uptick with Lambeth no exception. The incidence in our borough has now jumped from around 18 cases per 100,000 population last week to over the 30 per 100,000 by the weekend. The London rate has now reached the 25 per 100,000 which is the current threshold for “an area of national concern”. Public Health leads in the capital are discussing London specific actions to manage the escalating numbers and to keep our communities safe.
In Lambeth we have had our Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan to deal with the threat of a Covid second wave in place since early July and we are ready to implement all measures needed up to and including a local lockdown in the way some parts of the country outside London – including Birmingham, Bolton and Leicester – have already done. In Lambeth the cases appear to be dispersed across the borough with no particular focus or “outbreak” in play and the majority of the new cases are in adults under 40.
But our local efforts to get clear consistent messaging in place for residents to help us to ‘Keep Lambeth safe’ and to get tested as soon as any of us develop symptoms are being critically undermined by the government’s failure to ensure that tests are available when the public need them. Constituents of mine tell stories of being referred by the NHS website to test sites in areas miles away from South London and finding the alternative of home testing kits similarly unavailable. Until the government ensures that there is sufficient laboratory capacity to guarantee everyone can get a test where they want it when they need it (and the result delivered promptly) then we will have no chance of establishing control over the pandemic.
In Lambeth we have asked for an increase in the testing availability at our Brixton Somerleyton Road testing site for the next week as over half of the cases we have seen in the last 14 days are within 2km of this location. We are also looking for additional testing sites in the borough to improve local access to testing. We are working with local businesses to ensure that they are now recording details of clients for the test and trace system and are also ready for the roll out of a national app. We continue to work closely with neighbouring boroughs to ensure Lambeth is closely linked in actions and communications to coordinate a response to outbreaks which cross brough boundaries.
The commitment of Lambeth residents to fighting Covid19 has been impressive with our borough showing some of the highest testing rates in the country and our people helping national Test and Trace reach higher proportions of contacts from those with the virus than most places in the country (at 87%). We will shortly be bolstering the national NHS Test and Trace system by using local personnel to deliver the intimate local knowledge of Lambeth that the centralised system cannot provide in order to boost the efficiency of test and trace. But until the government keeps its side of the bargain by ensuring an effective national test and trace system and gives councils the resources to help make the Covid response work successfully the battle against the virus will continue be an uphill struggle.
Cllr Jim Dickson