Covid 'test while you shop' rolled out in London and 75k could be swabbed this weekend in bid to avoid Tier 3
COVID 'test while you shop' will be rolled out in London this weekend as 75,000 people could be swabbed to avoid the capital going into Tier 3.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered the extra testing to be carried out as soon as this weekend as London has the highest Covid infection rate in the country.
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Yesterday, London mayor Sadiq Khan and council group leaders also agreed on community testing – which included 10 extra mobile testing units alongside 70 rapid test centres.
Some of the new testing units will be close to busy shopping areas so that people can “test-while-you-shop” and results will come back within 30 minutes.
The London Fire Brigade will also help run testing sites at shopping centres in Westfield, Romford and Lakeside.
The additional testing is taking place in Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and the City, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
School staff will also be able to access 44,000 home test kits to use before schools return in January.
Mr Hancock said: “I urge every student, parent and teacher in these areas to step forward for testing — irrespective of whether they have symptoms. While Covid-19 may be lower risk to children and young people, it still poses a significant risk to their families and communities.”
Thousands of teen schoolkids will get Covid tests amid fears they are fuelling a devastating third wave.
It comes as Mr Khan announced the deployment of more Covid cops and marshals on the capital's streets.
SOARING INFECTION RATE
The last-minute blitz also includes more "hands, face, space" signs on the capital's high streets in a desperate attempt to quell the spread of the virus.
The nation's tiers will be reviewed on Wednesday and London's infection rate is the highest in the UK.
It leaves the capital at risk of moving into the 'very high alert' category, something the London mayor is keen to avoid. The whole capital is currently under Tier 2 restrictions.
If the city plunged into Tier 3, pubs and hospitality venues would be forced to close and people would no longer be allowed to meet friends in gardens.
A decision on whether to change London's tier will be made on Wednesday and any change will come into effect on Saturday, December 19.
The rules on gathering with people from other households would then be relaxed from December 23 for five days to allow families to get together over Christmas, but other restrictions would remain in place.
How would the rules change if London goes into Tier 3?
If London is moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3, the main difference in restrictions is related to social gatherings, which will come as huge blow with just nine days before Christmas day.
In Tier 2, people can meet in groups of six outside – including places such as public spaces, private gardens and outdoor areas of pubs or restaurants.
Hospitality venues can also stay open as long as they serve a “substantial meal” with all sales of alcohol.
But in Tier 3, all hospitality venues would have to close.
People in Tier 3 must not meet with people from different households, unless they have a support bubble.
There are some limited exceptions to this – meaning groups of up to six people could meet in some outdoor public places such as parks, beaches, public gardens and playgrounds.
Shops, gyms and hairdressers can remain open in Tier 3.
Mr Khan said there would be “enhanced enforcement” by Transport for London to ensure people are wearing masks when they should on public transport.
Mr Khan, said: “Londoners have made monumental sacrifices this year in order to keep each other safe and protect our NHS.
“While the rollout of the vaccine this week may feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel, my message is clear – we still have a long winter ahead of us and we must all continue to play our part to keep ourselves and others safe.”
He added: “Nobody wants the capital to face Tier 3 restrictions – it would be catastrophic for our pubs, bars, restaurants and culture venues.
“But with cases rising we are now at a tipping point, which is why we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to get on top of the virus by following the rules.”
SOARING INFECTION RATE
London recorded 191.8 new cases per 100,000 in the week to December 6, according to a report published this afternoon by Public Health England.
It's 20 per cent higher than the week prior, when the whole of England was in the grips of its second lockdown.
For comparison, the figure is 130.9 in the North West – where swathes of authorities are in Tier 3.
The infection rate is 162.5 in the East Midlands, 160 in the South East, 158.4 in the West Midlands, 149.2 in Yorkshire and the Humber, 147.2 in the East of England, 146.2 in the North East, and 77.3 in the South West.
London, the South East and East of England are seeing cases rise, PHE's Covid-19 and flu surveillance report stated.
More official data shows every borough in London has a higher coronavirus case rate than at least one Tier 3 area, figures show.
Moving to the highest alert level would mean a miserable run up to Christmas, with pubs and restaurants closed and a ban on seeing friends and family.
What are tiers based on?
Five factors are considered:
– case detection rates in all age groups;
– case detection rates in the over-60s;
– the rate at which cases are rising or falling;
– the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken;
– Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.
The Government has said it needs to maintain flexibility to weigh the indicators against each other – such as whether hospital capacity in neighbouring areas is lower.
Another example given in the coronavirus winter plan is that case detection rates would need to be weighed against whether the spread of the virus is localised to particular communities.
The plan states “given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators, as doing so would result in poorer quality decisions”.
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