Could Swindon be headed for local lockdown?

Public Health England is expected to publish its watchlist later today, detailing the areas in England of most concern for government health officials.

Swindon first featured on the watchlist last week as an area of concern.

It was placed on the list after a spike in cases driven by a coronavirus outbreak at the Iceland distribution centre in Penzance Drive.

Since then, more than 70 people have been diagnosed with the virus. The latest figures, published on August 12, showed there had been 1,047 confirmed cases since the pandemic started.

Swindon Borough Council has launched a campaign this week aimed at getting people to follow guidance around social distancing, hand-washing and wearing masks in order to prevent the town from going into lockdown.

2,000 households in SN1 and SN2 postcode areas, where the majority of new cases have been, have received letters from public health officials.

A walk-in test centre was set up on the County Ground car park.

If there is a local lockdown of the type seen in Preston or Manchester it will be down to ministers in Whitehall – not Swindon’s council. People would likely hear about any lockdown measures via social media, TV, radio or online news, with no clear plans earlier this week for mass texts or the like.

But health officials have played down the risk of a local lockdown.

Earlier this week, the borough’s public health director Steve Maddern said: “We are not at the point of implementing local restrictions, but we need to do everything we can to limit the spread of the disease and to keep our case rate down so we do not end up at that point. We need to break the chain of transmission.

“The message of this campaign is simple: it’s up to each and every one of us in Swindon to play our part. Wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a face covering when you need to.

“If you think you have symptoms, no matter how mild, book a test immediately and if you test positive make sure you self-isolate for at least 10 days. If you fall ill, everyone who lives at your property must also self-isolate. Staying at home, means not going out for any reason, including to work, or to the shops.”