Council meetings

Agenda item

Scrutiny of the Council's Covid-19 Response - Update Report


This item was presented by the Director of Public Health and the Director of

Public Services.


The Director of Public Services said that there had been many changes since

the last meeting of this Panel. Lewisham had moved from tier 4 to a national

lockdown following a huge increase in infection rates.


Critical Services continued to be delivered but were under pressure from

covid absences and some staff in isolation. Response services also continued

to be delivered. 140 members of staff had been deployed throughout the

Covid action team. The main areas of deployment included 52 members of

staff in local track and trace, 30 in community testing and 26 in enforcement.


Community Testing for those without symptoms As at 25 January 2021,

4042 were tested, 65 of those were positive. There were testing centres in the

Civic Suite, a mobile unit in Wearside and a site at the Green Man. A further

site in the North of the borough should be open next week. A walk in service

would be offered this week at certain times of the day, in an effort to make the

service more convenient for people to use.


Trace and Trace was labour intensive. Last week staff were contacting 86%

of cases; the 12th highest in London.


Enforcement Covid rules had been enforced in parks at the weekend and

businesses visited. It had been noted that people had become more

complacent and there had been wide spread noncompliance. Joint working

within the teams had improved. Enforcement arrangements had been

reviewed and some changes had been made. Enforcement officers delivered

a letter from the Mayor to all local supermarkets and it was now easier to

report breaches on line. Last week 1,576 checks were made and 267 formal

visits made to businesses.


Schools 10% of pupils attended school. These included vulnerable children

and those whose parents were key workers. Numbers were higher than in the

first lockdown. Schools and colleges were working with officers and the

department of education to establish need and ensure the most vulnerable

and disadvantaged learner had access to digital services.


Infection rates were down. Over the last 7 days in Lewisham, the infection

rate per 1000 was 538. This figure was higher for 60+ years at 644. Although

hospitals were still full, it was hoped that within 2 weeks these numbers would

reduce also. The numbers of deaths from covid in the week ending 8 January

2021 had increased to 30. This number was expected to increase over the

next few weeks.


In conclusion, the Director of Public Services said that staff were focussing on

key areas and working very hard.


The Chair thanked staff and volunteers for their hard work and expressed

members’ appreciation for the way the delivery of critical services was being

carried out.


Councillor Codd asked whether people were co-operative when contacted by

Trace and Trace staff, whether they were isolating and whether there was

enforcement after advice had been given. The Director of Public Services said

that generally people were co-operative but it was not known whether the

advice was adhered to. There was a national concern that not all people

would isolate following advice that they may have been in contact with a

positive case or that they had the virus themselves. There was no

enforcement at the moment but could be a possibility when numbers reduce.

In the summer months, Police had undertaken enforcement regarding those

isolating when entering this country, but numbers were low.


In response to another question from Councillor Codd about the purpose for

people wanting to be tested, the Director of Public Services explained that

community testing was being managed in accordance with government

recommendations. Targeted groups were those people who were out

circulating in the community but the reasons for wanting to be tested were not

vetted at the centre. It was noted that numbers spike on Friday but there was

no evidence to support the idea that people were preparing to flaunt the rules

at the weekend. Although information was sent along with results via a text

message, officers were also working on an explanatory takeaway leaflet that

would be given during testing, explaining the rules regarding a negative or a

positive result.


It was noted that some seconded staff would continue to work within the covid

team for several more months. Officers were considering how they would

transition back to their own services but for now officers were considering

rotating roles because some of the work was very intensive.


In a response to questions from Councillor Millbank, members were advised

that care agency workers in the community were treated the same as staff in

care homes in that they both receive weekly PCR tests. In response to a

further question about whether toilets were open in Lewisham Market, the

Director of Public Services agreed to provide Councillor Millbank with the



In response to questions from Councillor Bernards, the Director of Public

Health said that there was no data regarding the take up of vaccines yet, so

they did not know the number of patients missing their appointments.

Clarification would be sought about whether the two vaccinations offered to

residents were the same brand of vaccine. Evidence regarding approved

vaccines stated that they had similar ethics and safety profiles. There was no

data regarding the numbers of people who may have died following

vaccination but as of 21 January 2021, across South East London 97,000

vaccines had been delivered. Data not available at present would be

incorporated in future reports.


Councillor Codd said that he had been contacted by several elderly residents

in his ward claiming that they had received a text from their G.P but the

instructions had been confusing and they were concerned that the texts were

a scam. The Director of Public Health agreed to discuss this with NHS



In response to a question from Councillor Sorba about the use of resources

for lateral flow device testing, the Director of Public Health said that the main

rationale for using the test was to identify asymptomatic cases that would not

otherwise be detected. With regard to false negatives, and those falsely

reassured, Lewisham provide messaging in the form of a leaflet and wider

messages which state that the negative result was only valid for that moment

in time and that they should continue to adhere to current guidelines.

Lewisham was trying to achieve the maximum gain from the identification of

asymptomatic cases, balanced with the risk that negative results may be used

to ignore government guidelines.


In response to a further question from Council Sorba about a government

directive to recruit vaccine ambassadors, the Director of Public Health said

that Lewisham had recruited over 150 champions who received weekly

emails, fortnightly webbinars and a lot of work had been done with these

champions on information regarding covid 19 vaccinations. More champions

would be recruited. Every effort was being made to target messaging to

champions who would be in touch with those who were potentially vaccine

hesitant and to empower them to spread the messages about covid 19



Councillor Curran said that he had been advised that some surgeries had

been so successful administering the vaccine that they had to wait a week or

two before stocks were replenished. He had heard that this had been done

deliberately, in part, to ensure that there was an even distribution of the

vaccine in each area. He asked whether this was true and whether the

distribution could be increased. The Head of Public Health said that she had

not heard about this practice but agreed to discuss this with CCG colleagues

and provide members with a response in future reports.


The Chair thanked the Director of Public Services and Public Health for their

detailed responses.


RESOLVED that the report was noted.

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