Rise in Delta variant Covid-19 cases in Luton leads to 'critical' call for vigilance
A rise in Delta variant Covid-19 cases in Luton has prompted a call for vigilance "at quite a critical time".
The latest figures for the town were presented to the borough council's health and wellbeing board by its interim director of public health Sally Cartwright.
"Our rates are 140 per 100,000," she told the board. "We're seeing an increase.
"Everywhere in the country is increasing at the moment and our rates don't seem to be going up quite as fast as some other areas," she said.
"In terms of the national rankings, we're not in the top 20. We're further down the rankings.
"Across the east of England, everywhere has seen an increase in their rates, so we're at quite a critical time.
"We do need to remain vigilant and keep a really close eye on that increase," she warned.
The Delta variant is now the dominant virus circulating at 90 per cent of sequenced cases, according to a report to the board.
"This variant is more transmissible, but doesn't appear to be leading to more serious illness and death," said the report.
"But with the need to isolate the wider harms of Covid, such as missed education or lost income, are significant and greater in deprived communities.
"Luton has a slightly different profile of cases, often having a delayed and more enduring peak.
"The public health team began daily incident management meetings, reviewing each case and initiating appropriate action including surge testing.
"This is no longer sustainable and a return to population measures has recommenced.
"The national testing strategy (community testing programme) ended last week. (June 30)
"We're waiting on national sign off for the strategy moving forward, but it's thought there'll be an extension to March 31, 2022.
"The model being deployed in Luton now will be a ‘Take testing to the people’ approach," explained the report.
"The testing bus will remain in St George's Square seven days a week for a town centre presence.
"Two mobile testing units will be deployed across the town in community locations, such as leisure centres, faith centres, parks, industrial areas and residential settings.
"One will cover Luton North and one will cover Luton South seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.
"The Mall will still act as a distribution point for home test kits.
"And the three local polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test centres will remain operational at Bury Park, Hockwell Ring and Vicarage Street.
"Despite significant capacity and communications, there's been a sustained decline in the participation in testing," added the report.
"The council carried out a poll to explore the reasons for this and found the decision whether to test was driven by an individual’s assessment of risk, including frequency of leaving home, vaccination status, Covid secure premises and validity of lateral flow device (LFD) tests."
The local authority has started environmental sampling of wastewater, working with the Joint Biosecurity Centre, to support the outbreak response.