Covid-19: Statement from the Hackney Borough Resilience Forum

The Hackney Borough Resilience Forum, which coordinates the borough’s local response to the pandemic, has issued the statement below with advice and guidance for people living in, working in, or visiting Hackney during the festive period.

The new Covid-19 Omicron variant is now increasing rapidly and is a very serious threat across the UK, particularly in London. Hackney is one of the worst affected areas.

The rate of Covid-19 infection from the Delta variant was already high in Hackney and we are now seeing a second epidemic of Omicron variant on top of this. The Omicron variant is spreading at an extraordinary rate – faster than we have seen before with other variants. It is causing local outbreaks in our schools, care homes, business and communities, bringing disruption to health and care services and to the wider economy.

The Omicron variant case rate is doubling in less than two days in London and over half the Covid-19 cases are now this variant. The reality is, therefore, that we are highly likely to be facing a record peak of cases very soon.

Unfortunately, fewer people in Hackney are protected with Covid-19 vaccines compared with the rest of the UK – around 100,000 people have still not had two doses of vaccine and 7 out of 10 people haven’t yet had a booster.

Many people are likely to get sick at the same time and, due to the high number of cases, many are likely to be hospitalised around the same time. NHS doctors and nurses have grave concerns about whether they will be able to treat everyone who needs medical treatment in a timely way. 

In light of this threat, we are issuing new advice to everyone living, working or studying in Hackney. Young and old, we all need to take action to protect ourselves, our families, friends and neighbours and to keep our precious health and social care system from collapsing.

This is about us all doing the right thing – not just about following rules. For that reason, we all encourage you to: 

  • Limit your close contact with people outside your household. Think carefully before you mix with other people, because the Omicron variant is spreading fast and is a serious threat to everyone’s health. If you choose to go to an event or mix with other people, please follow the guidance below.
  • Meet people outdoors where you can. If you decide to meet indoors, avoid crowds, open the windows and make sure there is fresh air circulating.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a face covering anytime you are in close contact with people you don’t live with. Anyone you meet could be infected. 
  • Take a rapid test (LFT) before you meet people and ask other people to take a test too, including people you live with. LFTs are good at picking up when someone is infectious and can easily pass on the virus to other people. So, testing is especially important before you meet vulnerable people at risk of serious illness from Covid-19, such as elderly people, pregnant women and those with long term health conditions.
  • Get your 1st or 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible and the booster as soon as you can. Everyone over 18 is eligible for the booster. If you have not had a vaccine yet, come forward now. Vaccines are free, safe, and effective, and will help to protect you from severe illness as a result of Covid-19 infection.
  • If you have symptoms of Covid-19, even if mild, please immediately isolate yourself and book a PCR test. There is a high risk that people you live with will get infected too, so try to isolate away from other people, wear a face covering if you are in the same room and windows open, and wash your hands frequently and regularly clean the environment. 
  • If you have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19, you are at much greater risk of becoming infected, and you may spread infection to others. You must self-isolate for 10 days unless you have had two doses of vaccine or are aged less than 18 years and 6 months. 
  • If you are told by NHS Test and Trace that you must self isolate, you may be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment, if you are on a low income and will lose earnings as a result of having to isolate. Find out more about how to apply. 
  • If you are a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case, but you are fully vaccinated or aged less than 18 years and 6 months, do daily rapid tests (LFT) for a week, before you leave the place you live. Minimise your contact with people outside your household, and stay away from anyone who is vulnerable to serious illness from Covid-19.

For anyone organising an event – regardless of the size:

  • If you are holding an event of any size, request evidence of a negative rapid Covid-19 lateral flow test done on the same day as the event. Consider making this a condition of entry. The regulations allow for a rapid test to be done within 48 hours. However, to detect infectious people, the rapid test should be done as close as possible to the event.
  • We advise you to request people to do a rapid test even if they have been fully vaccinated, as they can still be infectious and spread virus to other people. 
  • Tell participants that anyone who has been in contact with a case of Covid-19 in the last week should not attend the event (even if they have a negative test).
  • Ensure staff are testing themselves at least twice weekly and have a negative rapid test on the day of the event. Consider how to monitor this, for instance using the NHS COVID pass. 
  • If face coverings are not required by law in your setting, strongly encourage the customers and all staff to wear them. Consider how you can make this as easy as possible for people to do, including through supplying face coverings for people who need them and active monitoring and encouragement.
  • Make sure the event is well-ventilated – to reduce the amount of virus in the air. Avoid congestion and facilitate physical distancing, as much as possible.
  • Do not admit customers (or staff) who have symptoms of Covid-19, even if mild. Encourage them to go home and book a PCR test.
  • Get vaccinated. Encourage any unvaccinated staff and the public to take up the offer of vaccination without further delay. It is never too late to have your first vaccine. Find out more about how to book your first, second or booster jab.

For all organisations in Hackney:

  • Review your business continuity plans, as Omicron poses a serious business continuity threat, due to the large number of people likely to be ill at the same time.
  • Review your risk assessments and ensure that COVID-secure measures are robustly followed by staff and clients/customers/service users.
  • Strongly encourage staff to test at least twice weekly, using rapid tests (LFTs), and consider how to monitor the results.
  • Strongly encourage all visitors and staff to wear face coverings (unless exempt). Consider how you can make this as easy as possible for people to do, including by supplying face coverings for people who need them and active monitoring and encouragement.
  • Enable staff to work from home where they can and where this does not compromise service-delivery. Ensure robust Covid-19 safety measures are in place in the workplace, including good ventilation, for those that can’t work at home.
  • Do not admit customers (or staff) who have symptoms of Covid-19, even if mild.
  • Promote key messages to staff and their families and the public, including promoting vaccination.

Introduced under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the Hackney Borough Resilience Forum (BRF) brings together local statutory agencies to plan, prepare and respond collaboratively to emergency situations. The BRF is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the borough-wide response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hackney Council

Metropolitan Police, Central East BCU

London Fire Brigade

Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

NHS North East London CCG, City and Hackney