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Redbridge Council leader warns number of new coronavirus cases likely to be higher than reported

PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 September 2020

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal has warned that the number of new reported coronavirus cases in the borough may be distorted due to a reduction in testing capacity. Picture: Ken Mears

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal has warned that the number of new reported coronavirus cases in the borough may be distorted due to a reduction in testing capacity. Picture: Ken Mears

Photography by Ken Mears

The leader of Redbridge Council has warned that the latest coronavirus figures may be “distorted” due to reduced testing capacity in the borough.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning (Monday, September 28), Cllr Jas Athwal addressed Redbridge’s high infection rate — confirmed to be 58.6 cases per 100,000 people — and said the real number is likely to be even greater.

He said: “We have lost 44 per cent of our testing capacity over the last couple of weeks. The numbers could actually be a lot higher than what are being shown.”

Pressed on how this loss has been calculated, Cllr Athwal continued: “We’ve got a centre in the heart of Ilford that was testing around 700-800 people per day — it’s one of the biggest centres in London. However, recently it has only been testing 100-150 people per day because of capacity issues at the national laboratories.”

The figures are bound to be “distorted” as a result, he added.

Cllr Athwal also discussed people living in overcrowded homes, considered to be one of the factors driving up infection rates: “In Redbridge, what we have got is a borough that is one of the most overcrowded in the whole of London, and certainly we’ve got Ilford South, which is where most of our cases are.”

With this in mind, the council leader expressed support for an immediate ban on different households mixing in overcrowded areas such as Redbridge: “Mixing face-to-face should be stopped immediately because there are problems and we are seeing there the pandemic take hold. It is only going to get worse with the flu season coming into play as well.”

When asked for his view on the latest measures — introduced today — which will see fines issued to those with a positive test who fail to self-isolate, Cllr Athwal said they were a step in the “right direction”.

Howvever, he queried why their introduction has taken so long: “We needed them much, much sooner.”

The latest Public Health England data (from September 25) showed Redbridge’s infection rate to be at 58.1 cases per 100,000 people, largely in line with that outlined by Cllr Athwal.

Though this is lower than the England average of 64.7, it puts Redbridge in the top four London boroughs, all of which are in the east of the city.


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