Foreign holidays partly blamed for rise in coronavirus cases in Westminster

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Many people returning from foreign holiday to their homes in Westminster are testing positive for coronavirus.

The latest data revealed that 41 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the seven days up to September 2, but the rate of infection is 16.1 –  below the  20 per 100,000 people which triggers concern for public health officials.

Since the pandemic started, 132 people have died from coronavirus in Westminster with 1,000 confirmed cases overall.

However, the increases have shown an “upward trend”  over the past two weeks, the council’s adult and children’s services policy and scrutiny committee heard on Tuesday.

“There is no defined area or type of premise that is giving rise to cases,” said Tim Mitchell who is the cabinet member for adult social care and public health.

“We have not found that there’s been concentration in any particular area. It’s moved across the city north, south, east and west and there has not been a particular demographic or housing type that has given rise to a spike.”

However most of the positive tests have been among younger people aged 18 to 29, and those returning from holiday.

The borough’s head of public health, Russell Styles, explained: “We are able to actually pinpoint and drill down at household level to look at if there’s any actual clustering at postcode level.

“There are no clusters in postcodes that we’re observing in Westminster.

“The only clusters have been in family households where there’s up to four positives per household, but that hasn’t been part of a bigger geographic cluster.”

The council has also lobbied Public Health England for backward tracing for people’s contacts.

So far only two days of contacts are traced before testing.

And over the past four weeks the borough was above the London and England average on most days.

Mr Styles said 2.4 per cent of test results were positive for coronavirus – just above the national average of 2.3 per cent.

Meanwhile neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea has seen “a quite steep increase” with a rate of 28.2 cases per 100,000 of the population – currently the highest in London.

It did 800 tests over the weekend in an urgent move to stop the virus in its tracks.

In Westminster people can get pre-booked tests in Hyde Park, along with other test sites, and health officials have earmarked other sites if they need to step up testing if the rate goes above 20 per 100,000 people.

And the council has a specialist team looking at universities and quarantining overseas students when they arrive, before the start of the new academic year.

“It’s very important that advice is taken on board by students over gatherings,” said councillor Mitchell, explaining that ultimately the council and government could shut places down if they felt the spread of coronavirus was too concerning.

Pictured top: Foreign holidays have been blamed for an increase in coronavirus cases


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