COUNCILLORS say work in the central areas of Swindon is helping to bring down Covid-19 infections in the town.

The borough is still on the government’s watchlist after a spike in new cases, with most of them being concentrated in the SN1 and SN2 postcode areas – parts of town with high-density housing.

Imtiyaz and Adorabelle Shaikh are married Labour councillors for the Eastcott and Central wards respectively.

They say links between the council’s public health teams and people in the central areas – particularly from ethnic minority communities – have improved.

The rate of cases is coming down and the councillors echo the words of the council’s director of public health Steve Maddern about co-operation holding the key.

Adorabelle Shaikh, whose Central ward is the most ethnically diverse in the borough, said: “We are working closely with Mr Maddern and Helena Robinson at the council to get the massages out into the community, and that’s working well.

“We have the links to the community here, so we can make sure the communications are getting out. And we have helped with test and trace if the official team are struggling to get hold of people.

“I have even gone and knocked on a door and told them – socially-distanced of course – that they need to get in touch with test and trace and isolate themselves.”

The couple say things have improved from the early days of the crisis, when they felt there was not enough being done to get the message out in the central areas.

Imtiyaz Shaikh said: “The BAME community is disproportionately at risk from the virus and we were trying to get into the council information about that.

"Shopkeepers were concerned people using Manchester Road shops weren’t using masks, other people were concerned about having to go to work on crowded buses.

“It has improved now, which is good.”

Mr Maddern said of SN1 and SN2: “We are working very closely with the communities to make sure the necessary information is out there to remind people what they should do to protect themselves and their communities.”

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said the council was reacting to a fast-moving situation throughout the whole pandemic and added: “Public health colleagues are doing a fantastic job in responding to small outbreaks across the town in an effort to break the chain of infection and keep all Swindon residents safe.”

At the start of the pandemic the Shaikhs started a foodbank from their home to help people who were struggling.

Imtiyaz said: “We started taking in donations from others in the community, and giving them out and distributing food parcels from our garage.

"There were people in the community who weren’t covered by the official schemes, or weren’t able to access it.

Adorabelle added: “It was great to see how many people wanted to help and get involved.

"A lot of people really came together.”