Update from local Councillors on COVID

Our local councillors have sent out the message below with a wealth of information on Covid related subjects. This details, besides locations of Rapid Testing and Symptomatic testing centres, local shopping protocols, ways of helping the vulnerable and volunteering, ways to help schools, new grants for local businesses and more.

Cases in Southwark

(Numbers for the previous week are included in brackets in italics)

  • There have been 1,972 (vs 3,444 in week upto 8th Jan) confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Southwark in the week up to 17th January.
  • Southwark’s 7-day incidence rate is now 619 (vs.1,080) per 100,000; a decrease of 36% on a week earlier.
  • London’s 7-day incidence rate is now 657 (vs. 1,047) per 100,000; a decrease of 30% on a week earlier.
  • Overall positivity is currently 20.7%; lower than London as a whole at 21.0%.
  • Across London, nine boroughs have incidence rates above 700 per 100,000; Hounslow now has the highest incidence rate at 901 per 100,000.
  • There are 7,332 patients with Covid-19 in hospital across London.

 Case rates continue to decline across London, with all boroughs showing significant decreases in the past week. In spite of the recent reduction in case numbers, the levels of infection across the capital remain high. Within the NHS, there are some early signs that th​_e number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 across London is stabilising, though it is still too early to say whether we have reached the peak of this current wave of the pandemic. There also continues to be a high number of patients on mechanical ventilation and critical care beds, with the critical care bed occupancy at both our local trusts near 90%.

 What to do if you, or someone you know, needs help

Please look out for elderly or vulnerable residents and let us know if they need help. You can visit www.southwark.gov.uk/coronavirus-gethelp , email covidsupport@southwark.gov.uk or phone 0207 525 5000 and choose option 3. Please also contact Richard.Leeming@southwark.gov.uk and Margy.Newens@southwark.gov.uk

 Social distancing in Dulwich Village         

A number of residents have raised concerns in recent weeks about social distancing locally – both on our streets, in parks, and queuing for service at local cafes and shops. All of our local businesses are trying to get this right and have been extremely cooperative, as always, in responding to the concerns that have been raised. Our local police team has also helped to encourage the public to behave sensibly, and we have engaged the council’s COVID marshals to visit periodically.

 It has been heartening to see people continuing to support our fantastic local businesses during this difficult time. Please remember to wear a mask in all outlets and, preferably, whilst queuing outside them too, in order to help keep our entire community safe and feeling safe. Please do shop local wherever you can.

 Mass Rapid Testing in Southwark

On Monday 18th January, Southwark’s rollout of rapid asymptomatic testing was launched at the Damilola Taylor Centre, 1e Surrey Grove, Peckham SE15 6DR. This site is open seven days a week from 9am to 7pm. More sites will be opening soon. Residents can book rapid Covid tests for people aged 16 and over who do not have Covid symptoms. Results are usually available within an hour. We are encouraging key workers and those who cannot work from home to get a free test. This includes school staff, supermarket staff, refuse collectors, childminders, transport workers, security guards, cleaners, construction workers and many other key worker roles.

 New symptomatic testing site in Belair Park car park

The Belair site is operating slightly differently to other sites – testing facilities will be self-contained, using tents and possibly porta cabins to accommodate patients and staff. The site operates 7 days a week for 12 hours a day. Overall, the site will occupy a smaller area than other sites and as a result there will be no drive-through option. The site will remain operational while the need for testing remains high.

 Like the other symptomatic testing sites (Peckham Pulse car park, Burgess Park), all patients must book an appointment online via the NHS website.

Vaccinations

I have heard lots of positive feedback from happily vaccinated residents which is fantastic. The council is developing a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination strategy covering issues like access and comms and engagement. We are working with the CCG and colleagues across South East London to properly understand the many reasons for hesitancy in some parts of our communities, and start to address them through trusted voices including community leaders and healthcare professionals. We are eagerly awaiting NHS data on actual takeup to help refine our plans over the coming months.

Supporting Southwark Pupils: Laptops Crowdfunder & Internet Access

Southwark Council is match-funding a new fundraising campaign aimed at supporting thousands of Southwark pupils currently without access to a laptop or internet connection as they learn remotely from home during lockdown.

 The digital divide means many disadvantaged children and young people are missing vital teaching time, putting them at risk of falling behind.

With support from Southwark Council, the London South Teaching School Alliance is determined to get laptops to pupils who need them.

 Local education charity the Newcomen Collett Foundation kicked the crowdfund off with a donation of £20,000, which has already provided schools with 130 laptops. Businesses who have laptops they no longer use or who can offer services to refurbish second-hand laptops are also being asked for their support.

 The council has also secured an agreement with internet providers Hyperoptic and Community Fibre to offer free broadband to all homes on their estates until the end of the school year. Families currently without a broadband connection should contact their children’s school, who are working to identify eligible households.

Council Services – Waste Collection

Due to increasing numbers of staff absence in the waste collections team, arising from both confirmed cases of COVID and identified contacts, there has been considerable impact on waste collections. Currently, 30% of staff in the waste collections team are absent, with a shortage particularly of HGV drivers.

 Residents may therefore experience the following impacts:

  • Some services will operate 1-2 days later than normal, although our teams aim to have caught up by the following weekend.
  • We anticipate reported missed collections will take longer to resolve, on average 3-4 days instead of the previous average 1-2 days.
  • Some services, such as bulky waste collections and delivery of new bins will be limited to the most urgent cases.

Our teams are taking the follow steps to mitigate the effects of the rise in staff absences:

  • Bringing in extra crews from other areas of work, where possible.
  • Extending operating hours and/or adding extra collections at weekends, where possible.
  • Providing regular service updates on the website
  • Prioritising services with the highest public impact.

 Ofqual Consultation on 2021 Exams

The exams regulator Ofqual has launched a consultation on alternative arrangements for the awarding of GCSEs and A-levels this summer. The consultation will run until 29th January 2021.

It follows the decision to cancel exams scheduled for 2021 amid partial school closures. More information on the consultation, including details of how to participate can be found here.

 Volunteering and helping our more vulnerable residents

Our foodbanks have continued to fulfil an ever more important role during the pandemic. All contributions are extremely welcome, with non-perishable foods particularly appreciated.

Our closest foodbank is probably The Albrighton Centre, Dog Kennel Hill Estate, 37 Albrighton Road, SE22 8AH, tel. 0207 737 6168. Also: https://www.pecan.org.uk/southwark-foodbank

 You can find volunteering opportunities here:

https://www.communitysouthwark.org/Pages/Category/alt-volunteer-listing-page

 New Business Support Grants

Since March 2020, the council has issued over £165 million in Government Covid payments to Southwark businesses to help support them through the pandemic.

 There have been several schemes in place since the start of the pandemic from one-off support payments for closed businesses, to payments linked to specific tier restrictions and discretionary payments for businesses who fall outside of the main schemes but also suffered financial loss because of the crisis. 

 There are now two new grants that businesses may be eligible for:

  • Local Restriction Grant Payments (LRG) for closed businesses  This grant is for businesses who are responsible (liable) for rates even if their bill is zero. These businesses will automatically receive a grant payment where eligible if an application form has already been completed. There is no need to reapply however, they should be urged to complete the online form if they have not previously completed an application or received a grant.
  • An additional one-off grant for businesses for the leisure, retail and hospitality sectors. Eligible Businesses that have already received an LRG grant will automatically receive a one-off payment.

 Businesses can find their rateable value on their bill or by checking https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates

 Payments will be as follows:

Rateable Value               Closed Business Lockdown Payment  Payment  Four-week Local Restrictions Grant           Total potential Grant
Under £15k                          £4,000 £2,001 £6,001
£15k – £51k                          £6,000 £3,000 £9,000
Over £51k                             £9,000 £4,500 £13,500

 In addition, the second round of the discretionary grant scheme has been extended for eligible businesses that: 

a)    have been legally required to close due to local restrictions (but are not business rates payers/account holders); or

b)    may not be required to close but have been severely impacted by local restrictions.

The deadline for applications to the second round of the Additional Restrictions Grant has been extended to Tuesday 2nd February. This allows extra time to apply for grants covering the period 16 December 2020 to 13 January 2021.

Please check eligibility for this grant on our website. More information on business support scheme can be found via the council website: www.southwark.gov.uk/health-and-wellbeing/coronavirus