New infections of Covid-19 in Kingston are rising as concerns over the highly transmissible 'Indian' variant persist.

On Friday (May 28) the council (RBK) urged residents in the borough to "remain vigilant" and ensure they followed Covid safety measures such as physical distancing and regular hand washing during the bank holiday weekend and half-term.

In an effort to help reduce transmission in the borough, a new government-backed pilot scheme that will introduce contact tracing at Kingston Hospital was announced earlier this week (see below).

Authorities hope it will quell the uptick in new infections in the borough, with 82 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the borough in the seven days up to May 23 according to Public Health England (PHE) data.

That was an increase of 28, or 51.9 per cent, on the previous week's data, and meant that Kingston's 'rolling rate' of new infections per 100,000 people stood at 46.2.

The figure is far higher than PHE's most recent national average infection rate of 25.5, and only marginally lower than Hounslow (54.5), where the government have implemented surge testing to combat an outbreak of the highly transmissible B1617.2 variant first discovered in India.

The latest numbers on new cases were published as government scientists said the 'R' value of the rate of reproduction of the virus in England may now be above 1 again.

Data released on Friday (May 28) by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) put the figure between 1.0 and 1.1.

That was an increase on last week's estimate of a value between 0.9 and 1.1.

The 'R' rate represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially but when it is below 1, it means the epidemic is shrinking.

Kingston Council (RBK)'s Director of Public Health, Iona Lidington, described the increase in new Covid infections in the borough as "sharp" and urged residents to behave responsibly during the half-term and bank holiday weekend.

"We are seeing a sharp rise in Covid cases across Kingston and I want to urge all our residents to remain vigilant - particularly over the bank holiday and half-term," she said.

"Please remember the life-saving behaviours of hands - face - space - fresh air.

"And please consider whether you really do need to meet up with others at this particular time - if you do, it's safer to do so outside," Lidington added.

Meanwhile, a new pilot scheme that will help people in Kingston Hospital who test positive for the virus to isolate and better trace their contacts is set to be introduced in the borough after it received financial backing from the government.

The scheme will see support for the borough's contact tracing team, who track those who may have come into contact with someone who tests positive.

As Lidington described:

"Two dedicated ‘on the ground’ contact tracers will be based within Kingston Hospital, to support our local team.

"They will be specifically trained to complete contact tracing in a sensitive way, particularly with those who may be more vulnerable.

"We need to make it as easy as possible for people to engage with our local contact tracing service and offer support, including bespoke self-isolation support to those who are vulnerable or on low incomes," she said.

Click here to view the latest information on new Covid-19 infections where you live.