Camden and Haringey hit England's top 10 for Covid-19 spread

Cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant have been detected in Haringey, Camden, Barnet and Westminster

Camden and Haringey were in England's top-ten for the spread of Covid-19 last week, a university found, with R numbers closed to two than one - Credit: PA

Camden and Haringey were among the worst boroughs in the country for the Covid-19 spread last week, according to research published by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The university used Public Health England data, up to December 14, to determine the R number in each area of England.

The R number, or "reproduction" number, is the average number of people that each infected person passes the virus on to.

Haringey and Camden came eighth and ninth respectively on the UEA’s national ranking.

Haringey’s estimated R number was 1.76, whilst Camden’s was 1.7.

What does the R number mean?

If you start with a relatively small, round number – 100 people – who are infected with Covid-19, and then apply an R number of 1.7, you see what is known as exponential growth.

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Those 100 give the virus to another 170. Those 170 give it to another 289. Those 289 give it to another 491.

In three steps of reproduction, total cases have risen from 100 to 1,050.

During earlier waves, government imposed restrictions – including social distancing and lockdowns – to try to keep the R number below one.

What does it mean in Camden and Haringey?

Between December 10 and 14, Haringey recorded 2,131 new cases – and as of December 14, its estimated R number was 1.76.

Within three steps of reproduction at that rate, those 2,131 cases would balloon to more than 24,000.

Camden recorded 2,069 cases in the same five-day period and had an estimated R number of 1.7.

Within three steps of reproduction at that rate, those 2,069 cases would turn into almost 22,000.

What can we do?

The time usually taken for Covid-19 to enter somebody’s system, reproduce and become detectable means that the infections being identified now likely occurred more than a week earlier.

Since then, the government has introduced mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public spaces and asked people to work from home where possible – but it is too early to tell whether this has significantly slowed the spread.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far said the government will not introduce any further measures, but will monitor data on an hourly basis.

But chief medical officer Chris Whitty said people should “prioritise” the social interactions which mattered the most.

“Don’t mix with people you don’t have to,” he warned on Thursday, December 16.

A coronavirus vaccine being syringed

Vaccine take-up is low in Haringey and Camden, according to official figures - Credit: PA

Government has urged all eligible people to sign up for booster vaccinations, but those will not halt the spread in the short-term, as they take some time to kick in – and Camden and Haringey’s vaccination take-up so far has been relatively low.

Vaccinations

According to Public Health England, only 62.9 per cent of Camden residents had received their first dose of vaccine by Friday, December 17 – the seventh-lowest take-up in the country.

Only 55.8 per cent had received their second dose and 25.1 per cent had had their booster.

The figures in Haringey were similar, with just 63.2 per cent having accepted a first dose – the eighth-lowest take-up in the country.

Just 57.1 per cent had accepted a second and 24 per cent had had a booster.

Both boroughs were significantly behind many other places.

In the London Borough of Bromley, for example, 80.6 per cent had received a first dose, 74.8 per cent a second and 40.5 per cent a booster.

Why is uptake so low?

Kirsten Watters, Camden’s director of public health, said there had been “high demand” for vaccines in the past week at all sites.

But, she added: “Uptake is lower than we would like. I am concerned for those residents who have not yet had their first or second dose and would urge them to come forward.”

A person receives a Covid-19 vaccination in London

A person receives a Covid-19 vaccination in London - Credit: PA

“Like many other London boroughs, people who live here may be registered with a GP elsewhere, not registered, or registered with a Camden GP but live elsewhere,” she continued.

“London’s highly mobile population means there is a degree of uncertainty in comparing individual boroughs’ vaccination coverage.”

Ms Watters said the borough was taking a “proactive, community-based approach to drive vaccine take-up", including working with community and faith leaders.

“Some residents respond better to trusted community figures rather than the government,” she said.

The North East London Clinical Commissioning Group was approached for comment, as was Haringey Council’s lead member for health, Lucia das Neves.