More than 1,020 people have tested positive for coronavirus – including around 50 since Friday. But Swindon’s director of public health still says a local lockdown is not imminent.

Here’s the latest.

Outbreaks and watchlists

Numbers of cases have increased steadily since early July. Initially, Honda, XPO Logistics, Royal Mail and Swindon fire station said they had had a small number of workers who had fallen ill with the virus.

By the end of July a mini-outbreak was declared at XPO Logistics’ Iceland distribution depot in Penzance Drive after 30 people tested positive for the virus. A pop-up testing unit was sent to the site, with the council saying last week that 77 had tested positive.

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XPO Logistics Picture: DAVE COX

By last Friday - August 7 - 974 people across the town had tested positive for coronavirus – an increase of 100 on the previous week.

At around 6pm on Friday, Public Health England published its latest watchlist. Swindon was the first place in the south west to feature on the list as an area of concern. Cities like Leicester and Manchester, which have seen local lockdowns enforced after cases spiralled, featured much higher up on the list.

Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health Steve Maddern was clear ahead of the publication of the watchlist: Swindon was not heading into local lockdown. Many of the cases that had driven the rise in cases were related to the XPO outbreak, he said – and that situation was under control.

Further rise

At 9am on Friday, August 7, 974 people had tested positive for coronavirus.

Over the weekend the numbers kept rising. On Saturday it was 996, on Sunday it hit 1,020 and by Monday morning 1,029 had tested positive.

Mr Maddern told reporters in a briefing call on Monday afternoon that many of the cases were in SN1 and SN2 postcode areas, which covers the town centre, Rodbourne, Gorse Hill, Pinehurst and Penhill. The areas are among the town’s most deprived and with a wide mix of ages and ethnicities. 2,000 households are being written to in the next week urging people to avoid mixing with people as much as they have been. A mobile testing unit will be sent to the town centre.

He said: “This isn’t local restriction, this is just providing enhanced communication within those communities.”

Many of those who had been diagnosed with the virus were asymptomatic, meaning they were not showing coronavirus symptoms but had been tested as part of the track and trace programme.

Will we have a local lockdown?

On Friday, there were 20 towns and cities in England where the government was intervening because of the significant spread of the virus compared to other places in the country. They included Blackburn, Preston, Manchester and Wigan, where restrictions have been put on who people can meet and where.

The rate of new cases has generally been higher in those towns than it has been in Swindon, with anywhere between the equivalent of 16.1 new cases per 100,000 people to 80.6. The figure in Swindon was 46.8 per 100,000 people.

As an area of concern, Swindon’s council must take specific actions in order to limit the number of cases in the town, for example by speaking to communities at the highest risk of contracting the virus.

Mr Maddern said the rise in cases in SN1 and SN2 areas was a cause of concern, but he still said he did not feel Swindon would be placed on lockdown by ministers – as there would need to be higher infection rates across the town rather than just in particular council wards.

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The army helped out at a test centre in the County Ground earlier this year Picture: DAVE COX

“When we’re talking about things like restrictive measures and local lockdown, that is when we are seeing broader community transmission and in this situation we’re still not seeing that more broadly across the borough. It’s very much fixed in the SN1 and SN2 postcodes,” he said.

“I still don’t feel a local lockdown is imminent. I think what individuals and residents in those postcodes need to be mindful of – as do all Swindon residents – is it’s not a time for complacency. It’s not a time to be letting your guard down in regard to social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.”