Southwark Council officers are being trained as contact tracers as part of a package of measures to tackle a recent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases detected in the borough.
The five-point plan – covering testing, contact tracing, enforcement, communications and surveillance – was set out by director of public health Dr Jin Lim at a meeting of NHS South East London Clinical Commissioning Group's Southwark Borough Based Board on Thursday afternoon.
"Some of you may be aware – if you've been monitoring some of the numbers – that the Southwark incidence of cases went up quite sharply about two to three weeks ago and in response to that, we had a deep dive of the data with Public Health England and also with CCG colleagues and we have arrived at five point plan," said Dr Lim.
Dr Lim said that a second mobile COVID-19 testing unit is to be based in the borough, providing easy access to tests in Peckham Town Centre. Already a COVID-19 testing unit is regularly available in Burgess Park.
He also spoke about plans to train council staff to make phone calls on behalf of the track and trace service, and even knock on doors if people can't be reached by phone.
He said: "The sense is that for the national system, there have been a number of issues.
"When we've looked into it ... members of the public are reluctant to pick up the phone – as we all are – if it says 'number withheld' or if it's an 0300 number or a number that can't be recognised.
"Our local system will be different in that we aim to have an 020 7525 council number so that it can be seen that it's not 'number withheld'.
"We're in the process of training up ... public health colleagues, housing officers and environmental health colleagues to staff the system.
"We hope to run it seven days a week, and where the contacts and confirmed cases aren't contactable by the national system they'll push that through to us after 24 hours."
He added: "We will check with our local databases to see whether or not the numbers are correct.
"And then we'll use our local phone numbers to try and do that contact tracing.
"Should that fail and we are able to find the address, then we'll do ... door-knocking through our environmental health colleagues and through housing colleagues."
Dr Lim said that Southwark businesses which fail to comply with COVID-19 measures can expect tougher enforcement.
"As you know, we have additional legal powers – what is referred to often as regulation 3 powers – in terms of enforcement and closure of businesses that keep flouting the COVID secure practices."
Surveillance is the fifth component of the plan: "We now do regular deep dives into our data looking at the postcodes and the mapping and we also work closely with Lambeth and Lewisham colleagues around the border issues and horizon-scanning on common situations," said Dr Lim.
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