Lewisham’s Council’s director of public health has urged people to comply with Government guidance as cases of Covid-19 surge across the country.  

Catherine Mbema’s message comes after 620 new cases were confirmed in the capital in the last 24 hours and London was placed on a national Covid “watch list” as an area of high concern.  

Speaking to the local democracy service, she said in an “ideal world” we would have “ample testing”, but praised Government and local authorities for their response to the pandemic.  

“It’s been a challenging context. I think Government have done their best to manage all of the updates in what is a new and rapidly changing situation, and we in local government have done the same.  

“We’ve done our best to keep up with all of the latest evidence [and] all of the latest guidance to make sure that we can protect our communities as best as possible.  

“In an ideal world we would have had an ample amount of tests to manage with demand.  

“That would have been ideal, but locally we’ve done our best to make testing provision as widely accessible to people as possible.” 

For Lewisham residents there is a mobile testing unit in Catford and a permanent walk-through testing site in Deptford, though many people are finding it difficult to get a test across the UK.  

The revamped NHS contact-tracing app launched yesterday and Dr Mbema urged residents to download it.  

It emerged on Thursday that people with older versions of the iPhone could not download the app, and there are also people who don’t have access to technology in general. 

Responding to fears about privacy, she said the app is “tracking the virus, not people”.  

“We really welcome the app. It supports our contact-tracing efforts, so it means that if you are a confirmed case of Covid-19 you can more rapidly alert those you’ve been in close contact with. 

“The app is anonymous so it’s tracking the virus, not individual people. It’s important to remember that you’re not going to be tracked.  

“What we want to know is where the virus is at any one point in time and where it’s spreading,” she said. 

Wouldn’t have done anything differently  

Dr Mbema said in hindsight, the public health directorate at the council wouldn’t have done anything differently and praised the community for pulling together.  

“In what has been quite a challenging situation, with the resources that we have, I think we’ve performed really well. 

“Alongside the community we have pulled together, we’ve had an amazing community response in Lewisham. 

“With all the challenges, as a public health function, we’ve done the very best we can,” she said.  

Dr Mbema said the reduction in Covid-19 cases following lockdown “indicates that Lewisham really took on board the message of staying at home and keeping the community safe”.  

“I would encourage Lewisham residents to do the same this time around,” she said.  

Dr Mbema, who previously had Covid symptoms and had to isolate herself, urged people to continue to follow Government guidance to stop the spread of the virus, especially self-isolating when they need to. 

“We’ve done really well to pull together during the first peak of Covid-19 and I would urge us to do the same as we’re seeing the rise in the number of cases. 

“This time around I would encourage us all to pull together as we did, comply as best as possible to all of the Government guidance, and hopefully we can do the same this time around,” she said.