Young people targeted after they account for most new infections
Queues outside Zara. Picture: Westfield
Hammersmith & Fulham Council is bringing a mobile test centre this weekend (September 12 and 13) to Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, in a bid to reach teenagers and people in their 20s.
It is running a campaign on social media and with leaflets on estates to get young people tested.
Some people who recently tested positive for coronavirus in the borough may have got it after going on holiday or to parties. Health officials called 46 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the last two weeks to find out where they might have contracted the virus.
Three quarters of them had recently got back from a foreign holiday and 60 per cent had been to a party, said councillor Ben Coleman, Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s cabinet member for health.
Cllr Coleman said: “It’s helpful to understand what people are doing. We are determined to step up our communications with young people.”
He said 40 per cent of the cases were among 20 to 29-year-olds, and 22 per cent were aged 30 to 39.
“We know we have a very young borough,” Cllr Coleman added.
Hammersmith and Fulham saw 33 new cases confirmed between Monday and Thursday (September 10). This meant the borough had an infection rate of 27.5 cases per 100,000 people, which was the second high rate of anywhere in London.
There were 183 cases diagnosed in August and September, and 40 per cent of the cases were people in their 20s.
Director of public health Nicola Lang explained the rise is reflecting the wider pattern across London, which is seeing more positive test results.
Dr Lang said: “The number of cases is increasing rapidly in London. We noticed an increase starting at the end of August. That’s why we have been extremely vigilant as it’s very worrying.”
The council has also used IT to track every cluster of cases from the start of the pandemic.
It now has four methods of trying to get the infection rate down, including by deploying mobile testing units in the borough every day.
“Wherever we notice a ward or area has got more cases we immediately put a mobile unit there,” said Dr Lang.
Testing units have also been placed at the Olympia, Phoenix leisure centre in White City, and Farm Lane care home in Fulham.
These are sites where people can walk in for a test without a booking.
Linda Jackson, the council’s head of Covid-19, said: “We are doing a lot of work with places like Westfield. We are delighted to get a mobile unit at Westfield this weekend. We are doing lots of work to try and get young people tested as well.”
She added: “We are really taking the mobile testing units to the heart of where we think the issues are for our communities.”
The borough is also one of four London boroughs piloting local contact tracing, where staff phone people who tested positive to check they are ok and find out who they had been in contact with.
They are also “reaching the unreachable” through calls and texts to contact people NHS Test and Trace could not contact.
And the council is also speaking to businesses and doing spot checks to make sure they have rigorous health measures in place.
Ms Jackson said it was sending lots of messages to pubs and restaurants and shops “reminding people of their responsibilities” about safe working, mask wearing and taking customers details.
She said there’s a “really robust testing regime in care home settings ” with staff “tested weekly and residents tested every four weeks.”
She added: “One of the clearest messages we need to get the message across that this disease has not gone away.”
The council is also working with Imperial College London’s infectious diseases experts before students arrive for the start of the academic year to plan what would happen if there are cases in halls of residence or on campus.
The fourth part of the council’s plan is working with community leaders and faith forums to help spread the message and hear about their concerns.
“Cases are definitely increasing, so we urge caution,” said Dr Lang.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter