Local Covid-19 contact tracing service launched

elements of Covid home test kit

Lambeth council, in collaboration with Public Health England, today (5 November) launched a local Covid-19 contact tracing service.

It is intended to pick up on cases the national test and trace scheme cannot find. The council said the launch followed a successful trial period.

Latest available figures show that there were 296 deaths in the borough as a result of Covid-19 between 1 March and 23 October.

Laboratory tests confirmed 360 new cases between 28 October and 3 November, bringing the total of lab-confirmed cases in the borough up to 3 November to 3,942.

The latest “seven-day case rate” of 153.4 cases per 100,000 people in the borough is rated as “an area of concern”.

Covid-19 testing in the borough is now bolstered by walk-through local testing sites in Vauxhall and Streatham, and a drive-through mobile testing unit in Brixton, the council said. All the sites are appointment-only and can be booked via the nhs.uk/coronavirus website or by calling 119.

The Lambeth contact tracing service service will call residents who have tested positive for Covid-19 and notify them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

Local contact tracers will also collect the contact details of close contacts from the residents they call and refer them back to the national test and trace system, which will then get in touch with these contacts.

Council leader Jack Hopkins said: “This is a crucially important service that bolsters our national attempts to stop the spread of the virus, and fills in the gaps that have been evident in the national programme.

“The service will also be able to offer targeted support for residents using local data and knowledge to help them self-isolate.

“It is ideally placed to support vulnerable residents by linking them in with other local services to get any further help they may need.

“Contact tracers will also give advice and support those within the same household to ensure they are not spreading the virus.”

Hopkins said that having a local service meant local knowledge and intelligence could be gathered and used to act quickly if there was an outbreak in a local community or business.

“We will continue lobbying government to ensure they fully honour pledges to fund the cost of this local contact tracing work, and the wide range of other extra essential services, provided by local authorities during this pandemic,” he said.

The council said a pilot for the Lambeth contact tracing service had been running successfully since 22 October.

During the trial the Lambeth team worked closely with Public Health England to make sure the service could meet the standards necessary for it to go live.

In the evaluation of the scheme, residents reported that they were happy to take the calls and grateful for the additional support, the council said.

As a result, Public Health England gave Lambeth the go ahead for the local service. 

Ruth Hutt, Lambeth’s director of public health, said: “The Lambeth service will operate seven days a week and will be staffed by trained contact tracers and team leaders.

“Initially the service is being staffed by a pool of council staff volunteers, but will also shortly be recruiting a core team to work alongside the volunteer pool so that the service can flex as demand changes.”

Covid-19 testing in the borough is now bolstered by walk-through local testing sites in Vauxhall and Streatham, and a drive-through mobile testing unit in Brixton.

If you, or someone you know, experiences symptoms, Covid-19 tests and advice are available via the nhs.uk/coronavirus website or by calling 119.

Lambeth residents with symptoms can also book home testing kits through the website, and can access other testing sites outside the borough if more convenient.