Coronavirus: Islington Council leader says Covid-19 testing improvements are ‘too little, too late’

Highbury Leisure Centre_Exterior: (Left to right) Tyron Fuller, Partnership Manager, GLL; Cllr Janet

Highbury Leisure Centre_Exterior: (Left to right) Tyron Fuller, Partnership Manager, GLL; Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Councils executive member for health and social care; Mark Leslie, General Manager, Highbury Leisure Centre. Picture: GLL - Credit: Archant

The leader of Islington Council says gradual improvements to the government’s Covid-19 testing regime are “too little, too late”.

The army is currently assessing two possible locations in Islington where the borough’s first Covid-19 testing facility could be set up. There are already sites in Camden and Hackney.

People from Islington account for just 439 of the government’s 226,463 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus. The actual number of cases is thought to be far higher.

Islington Council is keeping records of Covid-19-related staff absences, including sickness and self-isolation where an employee is not able to work from home, and/or a member of their household has symptoms or a positive diagnosis.

For the period April 27 to May 11, there were 28 new instances recorded.

Since the start of the pandemic, 23 staff are recorded as having taken a test.

Asked if council workers now have easy access to tests, Cllr Richard Watts said: “I wouldn’t go that far, no. Some of the restrictions have been relaxed and there are more testing sites available locally, the army yet hasn’t found a venue that works for mobile testing site in Islington. We have been trying to support them to do that. So the issue remains that the tests are really only effective in the first four or five days after someone develops symptoms.

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“I think the testing regime is slowly getting rolled out and slowly being improved, so we’re now seeing more tests in care homes and that kind of but you know I would still describe it as too little, too late.”

Twenty-nine coronavirus-related deaths were registered at Islington care homes as of May 1, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Speaking on Thursday last week, Islington Council’s leader said tests had only recently become available to council staff with “the very small caveat” that 20 or so tests had previously been offered to social care workers.

He added: “However, with those early tests there’s only a very small time window in the first three days of people getting symptoms when they’re eligible to be tested.

“And the testing centres the nearest one to us was the Ikea in Brent which obviously had a very limited take up on the tests because finding people who were both eligible in that very limited time window and who could make it to Brent, was easier said than done.”

Last week it was revealed data on the outcome of tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests carried out privately had not yet been made accessible to local authorities.