Southwark Council leader column: We are now one of just four London councils to have local test and trace up and running

News Desk (21 October, 2020)

Our brilliant team in Southwark is now playing a key role in tracing contacts of people locally who test positive - vital work filling gaps left by the inadequate national system

34358L: Tooley St HQ of Southwark Council; R: Cllr Kieron Williams

Like everyone, I had hoped we wouldn’t get to a point where COVID-19 restrictions would need to be tightened in London, but it became absolutely necessary because infection rates have been rising rapidly.

Now that the whole city has moved into ‘Level 2’ restrictions we must all follow extra rules to help stop the spread of the virus.

I know, like me, you will want to play your part in protecting your family, friends and communities, and ultimately, save lives. This deadly virus has had a devastating impact in our community already, tragically claiming the lives of 255 Southwark residents. The best way we can protect ourselves and each other is to follow the rules and advice.

I have written a letter, explaining the additional rules, that has been sent to every household in the borough. The key new rule that affects us all is clear – please only socialise indoors with people you either live with, or who are part of your support bubble.

I know not seeing our family, friends and colleagues as often as we would like is going to be very difficult, especially for those who rely most on their support. But it is so important we act now, before the rates spiral out of control, and many more lives are needlessly lost.

In Southwark we are acting fast. We are one of four London boroughs that now have local track and trace systems up and running. It’s been deeply frustrating to see the shortcomings and increasing ineffectiveness of the national system – its own target of reaching 80 per cent of contacts of those with a positive test, is regularly being missed. Our brilliant team in Southwark is now playing a key role in tracing contacts of people locally who test positive. This vital work is filling gaps left by the inadequate national system.

We are also calling on government for additional support. The financial impact of COVID-19 has had a crippling impact on many people in Southwark, and I know many businesses are struggling to keep their head above water. That is why I’m asking for better financial support for people who are self-isolating and for hard hit workers and businesses too.

Whilst some financial support has come through to the council from Government, it has been, to date, wholly and sadly inadequate. We are facing a £16.3m shortfall this year and a £26m shortfall next year. Without extra funding from government we risk not being able to deliver the vital services the government has mandated are necessary in response to the pandemic, including supporting contract tracing, securing our care homes, tackling homelessness and supporting those facing unemployment. We are calling on Government to urgently talk with us and other councils about the challenges we face and to come forward with additional financial support so we can support our vulnerable residents and our local economy.

I am so proud of how volunteers, frontline workers, public services, charities, faith groups and businesses across Southwark have stepped up to try and stop the spread of the virus so far. I know so many people in Southwark have already sacrificed so much for the sake of their own health and that of others during the pandemic and I’ve heard so many awe inspiring stories of frontline workers in Southwark. I’m so grateful for the fearless work they do daily, despite huge physical and mental demands.

If you are worried about the impact of the new restrictions, or about self-isolating, there is support available. Whether you have a practical concern like how you will get groceries, a mental health issue like being alone, or how it will affect your finances – the council can help. Our Community Hub is still available to offer advice and support. To get help you can visit www.southwark.gov.uk/covidsupport for more information or contact the Community Hub at covidsupport@southwark.gov.uk or call 020 7525 5000.

Thank you for everything that you are doing to help keep yourself, your friends and family and everyone in Southwark safe. By working together can beat this virus, and get our lives and economy back on track.

Contribute
John Davies says:

Cheap political point scoring. I would wait and see just how magnificent the councils test and trace system is before blowing your own trumpet. As for the councils lack of finance, maybe if you hadent wasted millions and millions on pointless cycle lanes and brain dead road closures you might have money for the important things that the people of Southwark need

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