Council meetings

Agenda item

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


3.1    The Chair thanked staff and volunteers for all the hard work undertaken with regard to the pandemic. This item was presented by the Director of Public Health and the Director of Public Services.

3.2    The Director of Public Services said that since the last meeting of this panel, infection rates had continued to fall as a result of the lock down. He said that the government had issued a four step road map which was outlined in the report. He said that the first step, return to school, had gone well. There had been a lot of testing for corona virus and this would continue to ensure that any outbreak was contained. Officers were developing a plan to work alongside that government road map to help the community and local economy to exit safely from lockdown. Some services, like testing, would increase. Shielding services will cease at the end of the month. Staffing levels for the changing services were being considered because if a variant of concern was identified in the borough, surge testing would be required and 50 members of staff would need to be recruited very quickly to deliver the service.

3.3    The Director of Public Services said that critical services and response services continue to be delivered. 129 staff had been deployed to the covid action team. A further 21 agency staff had been added to that team.




          A further12,000 people had been received onto the shielding list; the total of those shielding was 21,000 in the borough.


          Community Testing


There had been 16,000 tests in community centres. Positive rates were .89%. Last week, a successful exercise on testing was undertaken in case a variant of concern was identified in the borough. This would ensure that Lewisham would be able to respond quickly and contain an outbreak.


Enforcement Works


13,000 checks on businesses had been undertaken and just over 1100 visits since starting a new approach this year. As we emerge out of lock down, this approach would have to change. Officers expected rules to change and Lewisham would need to help businesses to adapt to the new rules safely.


Infection rates


The 7 day infection rate on 26 January 2021 was 538 per 100,000. 18th out of the 33 London boroughs. On 16 March 2021, the infection rate had dropped to 24.5 31st out of the 33 London boroughs. One of the lowest in London and a significant drop.

On 26 January 2021 the infection rates for those residents 60+ years was 644 per 100,000 and was one of the highest rates in London  It had reduced to 14.5 29th out of the 33 London boroughs.


3.4    In conclusion, the Director of Public Services said that lockdown had been successful in reducing infection rates, and the pressure on hospitals as a result. The number of covid related deaths continued to fall; last week there were three. He said that the safe exit from lockdown must be managed carefully and response services needed to be maintained or reduced as necessary.


3.5    The Chair asked how realistic the possibility of a 3rd wave and subsequent lockdown was and he asked for a response on the concerns surrounding the Oxford vaccine. The Director of Public Health said with there had not been any firm indication that there would be a third wave but Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, had advised that local authorities should be prepared in the event of a third wave. Lewisham was making sure that the take up of the vaccine was as high as possible, that testing reaches all parts of the community in Lewisham, and there was good support for shielding. This would ensure that Lewisham copes well should there be a third wave in Autumn/Winter 2021.


3.6    In regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine, there had been recent media coverage regarding its potential link to blood clot formations. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) agree that risks of the vaccine are far outweighed by the benefits and that vaccination should continue alongside other vaccines. The numbers of people with blood clots following vaccination seem comparable with numbers expected in the background rate of the population. There was no evidence that there is a causative link between the vaccine and blood clot formation. The situation would continue to be monitored. Local authorities would be notified if any issues were identified following further monitoring by the WHO and EMA.


3.7    Councillor Kelleher asked what information members could share with residents to dispel the myths that are spreading about the vaccine, to ensure that they are confident about being vaccinated. The Director for Public Health said that a lot of information had been produced. A series of webbinars had been held with residents to answer questions, there was signposting to information on the web, and officers were working with covid 19 champions. She said that she would welcome any further suggestions about how to reach communities to dispel misinformation.


3.8    Councillor Millbank asked for more financial information about the cost to this Council in recent months, particularly as Lewisham exits from the second wave. The Director of Public Services said that Lewisham was claiming every entitlement from the government in terms of costs. It was a work in progress to ensure that there was a claim for everything possible and that nothing was returned if not used. This was audited and takes time to manage. Grants had also been received and were passed on to businesses in the local economy. £13.75m was given to 6,600 businesses in the borough. As applications were processed, more grants would be given to businesses. At the end of the pandemic, officers would ensure that all claims had been made and that this Council had been fully recompensed.


3.9    The Executive Director Corporate Services said that in recent months the government had started to recognise some cash flow pressures in local authorities and had made some funding announcements. In the last week there had been two further announcements.  One was support for clinically extremely vulnerable; approximately £200.000. A further announcement had been made for the Contained Outbreak Management Fund; and more than £3m had already been allocation for that. However the government were not giving any long term certainty going into the new financial year apart from an indication of £10m to cover all covid related expenditure.  She said that Lewisham had not been funded and recognised for the longer term and wider implications that covid would have on this Council’s finances.


3.10  In response to questions from Councillor Codd, the Director of Public Services said that:

·         All critical services throughout the first and second wave had been maintained. In the second wave the refuse collection service had been disrupted when there was snow. It was a day or two before normal service resumed because there was a shortage of staff. There had been a focus on critical services and this had been successful. Although not a critical services, street sweeping had continued through the main thoroughfares. Some of staff members of street sweeping had supported the waste collection service.

·         With regard to enforcement around businesses, the action taken was educate first. Very little action had been taken because once businesses understood the rules there had been general compliance. Where a visit had been made, advice had been given regarding grants that were available. Applying for grants was complicated, but officers would offer support if required.


3.11  The Director of Public Health said that from this week, Lewisham had started to take cases straight from NHS to follow up from day zero. Lewisham still rely on NHS for the test and trace contact follow up; those who had been in close contact with confirmed cases. This does not attract any additional funding. She said that the benefit of taking on cases at an early stage, was that there would be a local call handler, contacting a local resident, which meant that they would be much more likely to engage and provide the information required. Another benefit was that it was quicker to link people into support for self-isolation from the point of first contact. She said that local contact tracing was important to ensure that Lewisham were prepared for and successfully manage, a potential third wave.


RESOLVED that the report be noted.


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