Spike in east London Covid-19 cases caused by holidaymakers and partygoers say public health chiefs

Teenagers partying after exam results and people returning from foreign holidays has caused a spike in Covid-19 cases in east London, according to public health chiefs.

Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge have seen a “significant” rise in positive Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks with between 29 and 31 cases per 100,000 people recorded in the boroughs in the week ending September 6. The average area in England had 15 cases.

The spike means the boroughs are at a “trigger point” with health chiefs closely monitoring test results and discussing plans to avoid a local lockdown.

Matthew Cole, Director of Public Health, told Barking and Dagenham’s Health Scrutiny Committee that the new cases were predominantly in people aged 29 and under and were not putting any extra strain on hospital services.

He said: “In London we are still at a low rate but we have been moving up. Consequently Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge and Newham and Tower Hamlets have seen a significant increase in our numbers. They are small numbers and they are principally affecting younger adults.

“We have had a spike in 15/16 year-olds in London due to partying after GCSE results and we have got issues with incidents within our 15 to 29 age group.

“This is to do with social mixing, returning from holidays to places such as Spain and Croatia.

“We are close now to the trigger point to being an area to watch. We are monitoring it over the next seven days. Interestingly because it is younger people they are only getting milder symptoms, a few are getting moderate symptoms, but not enough to cause mortality or hospitalisation.”

The east London boroughs are still not at the level of positive coronavirus tests which would force a local lockdown. Bolton, which had a number of restrictions imposed on it this week by the government, recorded 131 cases per 100,000 people last week.

However, cases have almost doubled in Barking and Dagenham in the last week with 62 people testing positive for Covid-19 in the week ending September 6, compared to 35 the week before.

Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering have seen a total of 755 coronavirus-related deaths. The youngest fatality was 17 years old.

Mr Cole added: “We don’t know yet in London whether this is the start of it kicking off in terms of a second wave or just a slow rising tide. We are not at the point of France and Spain are at but certainly with schools going back universities going back and the opening of the economy we are seeing a rise.

“Unlike with the first wave we are picking up more cases than most, particularly in the Barking, Havering and Redbridge areas.”

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Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter