Residents are being urged to follow strict rules on gatherings as well as take other precautions to stamp out the threat of a local lockdown in Hertsmere.

Public health chiefs are concerned about a “significant” outbreak of COVID-19 in Hertsmere which has seen more than 60 people test positive in just over a week.

The rate of new cases is among the highest in England and health officials are taking action to minimise the spread.

But they say it is “ultimately up to the community" to behave in a way that will squash the outbreak.

The spread of COVID-19 in Hertsmere, which has mainly affected people living in Borehamwood, Bushey Heath, and Radlett, has been blamed by Hertfordshire County Council on teenage house parties towards the end of August.

But it is not just teenagers testing positive now with the council saying the virus has spread to adult members of their family.

Borehamwood Times:

Areas in blue are where at least three cases have been recorded between Aug 28 and Sept 3. Bushey Heath has had 19 cases in this time period

The council believes teenagers picked up the virus at a number of “large gatherings” in the Borehamwood area and that many cases in Hertsmere have been linked to where “multiple households” have mixed.

Yesterday, executive member for public health in Hertfordshire, Cllr Tim Hutchings warned that parents allowing house parties or event organisers face the prospect of being fined up to £10,000.

Hertsmere Borough Council leader Morris Bright says he does not want to see a spread of coronavirus in the community which could lead to the threat of deaths and "untold woe" for sufferers and their families.

Borehamwood Times:

Cllr Bright

What are people living in Hertsmere being asked to do?

Stopping large gatherings happening, particularly indoors, appear to be key slowing the spread.

The council is also pleading with those are infected or have been asked to self-isolate to self-isolate.

Cllr Hutchings has said “existing self-isolation and social distancing measures have not been effectively implemented” to contain this local outbreak among the original group of teenagers.

Hertfordshire County Council is asking parents to not allow children to attend, host, or organise indoor parties and gatherings which brings together more than two households.

The council says parties and large gatherings "will not be tolerated" and "stern warnings" have been sent to parents and schools.

After a spike in cases nationwide, the government looks likely to reduce the number of people (currently 30) legally allowed to gather indoors.

At the moment, it is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

Government guidance states people should not socialise indoors in groups of more than two households, and with no more than six outdoors with members outside of their household.

Private parties are not included in the government guidance that legally allows 30 people to meet indoors.

Weddings and bar and bat-mitzvahs can take place with up to 30 people with COVID-19 secure measures in place.

Aside from that, residents are asked to follow rules such as wearing a face covering where it is mandatory, unless exempt, keeping a minimum one metre distance from people outside of their household where possible, and washing hands frequently.

Borehamwood Times:

Credit: PA

Could we see a local lockdown?

The county council says it wants to “avoid any further restrictive measures” but “ultimately is down to every person taking the key actions it have asked them to do” – particularly to not socialise in groups.

The council says it is keeping under close watch any new cases in the Hertsmere/Borehamwood area, on a daily basis, and if necessary, deciding whether to enact local powers such as enforcing local lockdown.

The rate of COVID-19 cases in Hertsmere (57.6 per 100,000 population) is higher than some areas in northern England where there are restrictions in place such as a ban on meeting people in homes.

Cllr Hutchings has also warned that schools face closure if the outbreak worsens.

Pupils at Yavneh College and Hertsmere Jewish Primary School are among a number of schools in Hertsmere where pupils are currently self-isolating.

What should I do if I test positive or am asked to self-isolate?

If you find out you have been in close contact with someone who has been infected with coronavirus, you and everyone in your household should self-isolate immediately for 14 days.

If any of you then develop symptoms, you should request a test by visiting or calling 119. Do not request a test if you don't develop symptoms, but you must remain in self-isolation.

You must self-isolate for at least 10 days if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or receive a positive test result.

Borehamwood Times:

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While in self-isolation, you should not leave your house for any reason, including for work, school, exercise, or to go to the shops or any other public spaces.

Order food and essentials online, or ask a friend or relative to drop supplies outside your home and keep a safe distance.

The council says it is ensuring that every ‘significant contact’ of an infected person who needs to self-isolate is given much clearer, written guidance on what they must do to comply with national Public Health England advice.

What is the latest statement from public health officials?

Cllr Hutchings said: “We can confirm there are a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases in Hertsmere – with a specific rise of cases in Borehamwood.

“Existing self-isolation and social distancing measures have not been effectively implemented to contain this local outbreak among the original group of young people (16 to 19-year-olds) in a number of large social gatherings in private homes in the last week of August.

"In these cases, transmission did not occur in a school setting but through a number of friendship groups within the wider local Hertsmere community and in North West London.

Borehamwood Times:

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“We now need all residents in Hertsmere to pay really close attention to this serious issue of the spread of COVID-19, as well as working with community leaders, to remind them of the importance of following the government’s guidance to minimise the risks of the spread of COVID-19. If we do not get a grip on this local outbreak, then the risk is that schools may need to close.

“We have written again today to parents and carers of children at schools where fellow pupils are now playing their part by self-isolating, with a stern warning: stop these house parties and private events or face enforcement action of up to a £10,000 fine.”