‘Steady stream’ of new Covid-19 outbreaks in Havering

Seven care homes and a “steady stream” of schools in Havering are seeing coronavirus outbreaks as the pandemic enters its second wave.

At least one school in the borough has had to temporarily close due to the virus, a meeting of Havering Council’s Health and Wellbeing board heard today (September 23).

Havering’s director of public health Mark Ansell said there had been an “apparent reduction” in cases this week but warned this could be partly due to the limited number of tests.

There were 75 new cases in Havering this week, compared to 86 last week, and the rate of infection is 29 per 100,000 people.

Dr Mark Ansell said: “We are having a steady stream of outbreaks in schools, some of them quite significant.

“In at least one case, the whole school has closed for what they are describing as a ‘reset’.

“It’s inevitably going to get into the vulnerable sections of the community unless we can control it this time.

“We are trying to open additional testing sites but obviously it’s a national system and the bottleneck is currently in the lab.”

Dr Ansell told board members the return to school meant more of the borough’s limited number of tests were being used for children, who are thought to be less likely to contract the virus.

He explained that he was “fairly certain” this was part of the reason for new cases decreasing this week.

He also reported that seven of the borough’s care homes are now experiencing outbreaks, with two or more staff or residents infected, compared to “one or two at worst” during the summer.

Steve Rubery from Barking, Havering and Redbridge CCGs asked what the council would do about enforcing coronavirus legislation.

He said national businesses in Romford are “flagrantly ignoring the rules around face coverings” and that he had seen many people in the Liberty Shopping Centre without a mask.

Council leader Cllr Damian White (Con, Squirrels Heath) replied that the council’s enforcement powers are “unfortunately limited”.

He said: “We have, as of last week, directed officers to start making unannounced visits to licenced premises across the borough to instil a sense of compliance.

“The council is trying to support and encourage businesses to adopt the relevant guidelines rather than go too heavy-handed on enforcement.

“Ultimately the council does not have the ability, nor does the police, to have blanket enforcement.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter