Hackney’s public health director has urged residents to stick to social distancing guidelines with the borough still showing “much higher infection rates” than its London counterparts.
Hackney recorded 80 new cases in the two weeks leading up to 10 August, mainly isolated cases or household clusters, and has seen just over 1,000 infections altogether.
Figures show an uptick since June, when cases dropped to a low of four in a single week.
Dr Sandra Husbands reiterated her view that the rise is down to “compliance with social distancing slipping”.
The public health chief said the “risk of catching the virus is still generally low, but we must all continue to take precautions” such as regular hand-washing, staying two metres apart, and wearing a face mask.
In an update yesterday, Husbands said: “London is in a very different situation from other parts of the country which have seen partial local lockdowns.
“Compared to areas under local lockdown, such as Blackburn, Leicester, Oldham, or Bradford, London has low rates of infection. At borough level, though, Hackney is an outlier with much higher rates of infection than other London boroughs, though only about a quarter to a fifth of the rates in the lockdown areas.
“So in Hackney we’re not yet on the brink of a local lockdown, but that will only stay true if people comply with government guidelines, especially around social distancing. If the virus can’t physically go from host to host then it will be stopped in its tracks.”
She added: “People may have been confused when the government message changed from two metres to one metre plus. That is one thing that we want to reinforce for people, as social distancing is key. With one meter plus, the plus means mitigations like wearing a mask, or sitting side by side rather than face to face. This has been confusing for people – the guidance is still to keep a two-metre distance.”
Husbands pointed out that this emphasis on two-metre distancing is just as important when people welcome visitors to their home, or visit other people’s homes.
She said: “Although socialising between households is allowed under the current government guidelines, this is also the main way that the infection is spreading from person to person in Hackney at the moment. So, we must be more careful.”
The public health director also spoke of the need to overcome the problem of 46 per cent of Londoners not knowing how to get tested, because a lack of data hinders the effectiveness of public health measures such as contact-tracing.
She added: “That’s why we launched a major public health communications campaign ‘Keep London safe’ with posters going up, GPs sending texts, leaflets delivered to all homes and social media posts. We have also met with local community leaders and have developed a toolkit so volunteers can help get public health messages out to all parts of Hackney’s communities.
“Everyone needs to know that, even if you have mild symptoms of coronavirus, you can book an NHS test by calling 119 or going to nhs.uk/coronavirus – and that this is free to all.”
Husbands said she is working closely with Public Health England and NHS partners to “stop these new cases from spreading”, adding: “But we need help from all our residents. So if you have symptoms, self isolate, order a test straight away, and if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace you must comply and self isolate.
“In your daily life prevent the spread by following the three Ws:
– Wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer
– Watch your distance, keep two metres apart
– Wear a mask on public transport, in shops, museums and indoor crowded spaces.
“If we all practice these precautions and engage with NHS Test and Trace, we can keep coronavirus at bay in Hackney, London and beyond.”
If you have coronavirus symptoms such as a cough, fever or loss of taste or smell , please isolate yourself from other people for 10 days and get a test by calling 119 or going to nhs.uk/coronavirus
If you are asked to self isolate, regardless of symptoms, you must do so to keep from possibly passing it onto others