SLOUGH has avoided being put on the government coronavirus watchlist – despite having the highest infection rate in the south.
A Slough Borough Council (SBC) spokesperson confirmed to the Observer that the local authority has not been put back on the watchlist.
At the beginning of September, the borough was taken off the ‘areas of concern’ list.
The town currently has an infection rate of 66.9 cases per 1,000 population – which places it higher than Redbridge, London’s worst hit borough, at 61.6.
From September 23 to 28, the number of people in Slough who tested positive for coronavirus spiked to 100 cases.
This resulted in Slough overtaking Reading in the number of confirmed cases within the Berkshire area.
Reading currently has 980 cases whereas Slough has 985.
Slough was in danger of going back onto the watchlist as confirmed coronavirus cases were rising throughout the recent weeks.
An SBC spokesperson said: “Our concern level is still high in Slough and we’re closely monitoring the data we are getting.”
The Observer was told the virus is spread via community transmission, such as multi-generational households, across the borough rather than an outbreak at a certain location such as a shop on the High Street.
An SBC spokesperson added: “We don’t have an area within the borough that doesn’t have at least one case. That’s quite difficult because we can’t say to people to stay away from a certain location.
“The only way to help prevent community transmission is by people being careful, washing their hands, wearing masks, and keeping their distance from other people.”
They added everyone, and those who come in contact, should self-isolate if you have coronavirus or coronavirus-like symptoms if a test is unavailable.
Support is still available to those who do self-isolate, such as food deliveries, the spokesperson said.
What is the government watchlist and what does it mean?
The government has categorised this from low to high in three tiers: ‘areas of concern’, ‘areas of enhanced support’, and ‘areas of intervention’.
‘Areas of concern’ – which Slough was previously listed in – is the lowest end of Public Health England’s watchlist.
The council would take action in areas to reduce the rates of infection such as more testing in care homes or working with communities identified as higher risk.
The council will also have the power to close down venues, such as a pub and restaurant, but does not have the power to close them all.
Testing issues at Slough’s testing centre
Due to UK labs dealing with a backlog of tests, the government banned drive ins and walk ins at the hybrid test centre at Montem Car Park where only appointments can be made with a cap on how many people can book one.
Slough MP Tan Dhesi has previously blamed the government’s ‘shambolic test and trace’ where the Montem test centre has been limited to appointment-only, “leaving many with symptoms unable to be tested and our community vulnerable” Mr Dhesi previously said.
It was reported that some people were told to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight in order to be tested.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Dhesi grilled Health Secretary Matt Hancock, claiming SBC haven’t heard a ‘dickey bird’ from the government despite Mr Hancock saying, “we are working hard with the local authority in Slough”.
SBC’s spokesperson confirmed they haven’t received any contact from Matt Hancock or his team.
Slough’s MP asked the Health Secretary when will the Montem test centre go back to being a drive thru and walk-in test centre so locals can access a test when needed.
Matt Hancock responded: “We have got this record testing capacity and I’m incredibly grateful for all people who work in it to deliver it and I will not have this divisive language. I just won’t have it.”
On his Twitter, Mr Dhesi said: “Instead of fobbing me off again or giving misinformation, it’d be good if Health Secretary could actually answer my question.”
Imposition of 10pm curfew on hospitality industry was entirely avoidable, but became inevitable due to Govt’s shambolic privatised test & trace system.
Instead of fobbing me off again or giving misinformation, it’d be good if Health Secretary could actually answer my question. pic.twitter.com/IyvYVok4sC
— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) October 1, 2020
Speaking to the Observer, an SBC spokesperson said the council is continuing to lobby the government to lift the cap on the number of appointments at Montem test centre.