“The pandemic has not gone away,” Hackney’s Head of Public Health, Dr Sandra Husbands, warned as she urged people to renew their vigilance to avoid getting COVID.
The number of cases in Hackney has increased by nearly a quarter over the last week and workplaces including Homerton Hospital have been hit by staff sickness.
Over the last seven days, 1,740 Hackney residents and their neighbours in the City of London have reported the two lines on their COVID test that mean they have the virus.
Across London, the R rate is between 1.1 and 1.4, which means that every 10 people will infect on average another 10 to 14 others. When the R rate drops below one, the pandemic is waning.
It follows the relaxation of COVID rules, including mandatory self-isolation, although that is still recommended.
People no longer have to wear face coverings in most public places by law, but infection control experts still advise it.
Hospitals and other places offering medical care are still insisting that people wear face coverings.
COVID has claimed the lives of 551 Hackney and City of London residents within 28 days of a positive test – five of them within the last five days.
Free tests ended for most people on April 1, and the council is closing its test centres in Stoke Newington, Dalston, Hackney Central, Homerton and Stamford Hill.
Home testing kits will no longer be available at the two centres in Stoke Newington and Mare Street.
Dr Husbands said: “Although vaccines have made it possible for us to think about living with COVID, the pandemic hasn’t gone away.”
She said people still need to take precautions to stop the virus spreading: “Most people have been responsible and wanted to know whether they have COVID or not before they mixed with vulnerable family members, visited crowded spaces, or went to work or school.”
She stressed that the end of free testing makes it even more important that people are careful, adding: “I’d encourage everyone to act responsibly and stay home if they have symptoms, get vaccinated – including having your booster – and continue to follow sensible guidance to stay safe.”
Hackney still has one of the lowest numbers of people who are fully vaccinated, despite evidence that most seriously ill people in hospital have not had all their jabs.
According to the latest NHS figures, just one person had their first vaccine in City and Hackney on March 27, with 15 people getting a second jab and eight people getting a booster or third vaccine.
Overall, 64 percent of people in Hackney and the City of London have had one vaccine, whilst 59 percent have had two. Just 40 percent have had all three vaccines.
A fourth vaccine is now being offered to over-75s and other vulnerable groups.
People over the age of 12 and vulnerable children over five can get their vaccines at vaccination centres, pharmacies and pop-up clinics.
They include the Bocking Street vaccine centre, St Leonard’s Hospital and the John Scott Health Centre in Woodberry Down.
There are also pop-up events, with the Spring Hill Practice vaccinating people every Sunday until May 1.
More information here: hackney.gov.uk/coronavirus-vaccine