Statement on London being added to the Government’s coronavirus watchlist
The announcement that London has been placed on the Government’s ‘watch list’ as an area of ‘high concern’ is a stark reminder of the speed at which coronavirus is taking a grip on our city again.
After an incredibly difficult six months, in the last few weeks some parts of our lives have almost gained a sense of normality, with children going back to school, the Government encouraging people to return to the office, and more of our public spaces reopening. However, the virus is still with us and it’s absolutely vital - now more than ever - that we all do everything we can to keep London safe.
The announcement comes after 620 new cases were confirmed in London in 24 hours. At the moment, no further measures have been proposed, but we know that this may change if the infection rate continues to rise. The most important thing we can all do is to follow national guidelines, including:
- Wash your hands: keep washing your hands regularly
- Cover your face: wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
- Make space: stay at least two metres apart - or one metre with a face covering or other precautions
Over the last month I have raised concerns - and shared your stories - with the Government about the disgraceful state of the national test and trace system, which led to hundreds of Hackney residents who needed a coronavirus test being turned away. I made it clear that this was having an enormous impact not only in the fight against the virus, but also our local economy and daily lives. I have heard of doctors, teachers and other essential workers being unable to get a test and so having to self isolate for longer than necessary.
So the additional testing capacity promised for London, linked to this new status, is welcome, but it has to be felt on the ground by Hackney residents and key workers. In the last few days, following the work of our public health team, we have seen an improvement in availability of tests at our Hackney test centres, but much more needs to be done to ensure that our residents, key workers and their families who have coronavirus symptoms can get the test they so urgently need - this includes the ability to access a test locally without an appointment.
As a Council we are continuing to work with the Department for Health and Social Care to open more permanent test centres in Hackney Central (which opens today) and Stamford Hill to sit alongside the test centres in Dalston and Hackney Marshes.
We continue to do all we can to support national efforts and our local communities. This week the Council took on an important role in local test and trace efforts. Following our calls for more local authority involvement in this vital programme, Council staff are now supporting the national contact tracing service and will contact local people with a positive coronavirus test to talk to them about contact tracing and self isolation. This is already having a positive impact and increasing the number of people being contacted and supported to self isolate and identify their contacts as well as offering humanitarian support. You can read more about our involvement here.
We are also working with local businesses to urge them to link into the national tracing system and encouraging local residents to download the NHS COVID-19 app. It is now a legal requirement for certain businesses to display test and trace posters with a QR code, to make it easier for people to check-in at different premises and for contact tracing to be undertaken. When you see one of these posters, you can simply scan the QR code to check-in using the NHS COVID-19 app, instead of having to give your details to the premises. The NHS COVID-19 app is available as a free app for Apple and Android phones. I have personally downloaded it and would urge Hackney residents to do the same.
If you have coronavirus symptoms, even mild ones, please isolate yourself from other people for 10 days and get a test. If you are asked to self isolate, regardless of symptoms, you must do so to keep from possibly passing it onto others. You can book a test online or call 119.
Coronavirus symptoms are:
- A high temperature
- A new, continuous cough
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
In Hackney there are now 4 testing sites:
- Bentley Road car park, Dalston, N1 4DB (open 8am – 8pm 7 days a week)
- Yesodey Hatorah School Egerton Road, N16 6UB
- Hackney Marshes, E9 5PF
- 340 Mare Street, E8 1HA
Due to testing capacity, we have been advised that all local government-run test centres are still unable to accept people unless they have an appointment.