This item was presented by the Director of Public Health and the Director of
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
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
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
RESOLVED that the report was noted.