Apartment blocks, residential streets and town centres could be hit with local lockdowns if a spike in coronavirus cases are linked to them, meetings of two south-east London councils have heard.

Neighbouring boroughs Bexley and Greenwich both held health and wellbeing board meetings for the first time in months over the last week, with the two authorities each discussing their upcoming roles in the Government’s rollout of test and trace.

And while the two welcomed the new system, both acknowledged there remained a lack of clarity over what exact roles the councils could be asked to fulfil when test and trace efforts come into full force.

Presenting the system to members of the Greenwich meeting, the council’s director of public health, Steve Whiteman, said the program “is likely to be around for some time”.

“It’s not a here today, gone tomorrow initiative,” he told the virtual meeting.

He said test and trace would introduce a “systematic process” for identifying and contacting recent close contacts of someone who tests positive for the virus.

While there is not currently a phone app as part of the programme it was “quite likely” one will be added in eventually, Mr Whiteman said.

The Government has already recruited 25,000 NHS and call centre staff recruited to implement the system.

However, the exact role of local authorities in supporting the scheme remains ambiguous.

Speaking to the Bexley meeting on Tuesday, the authority’s director of public health Dr Anjan Ghosh acknowledged while “the logic for it is quite persuasive”, the execution remains “a bit unclear right now”.

He said it did present as “the only tool we have…to do a safe and risk mitigated way of easing the lockdown” and would result in the isolation of “the few…in order to liberate the many”.

Dr Ghosh said there still wasn’t much information regarding how local lockdowns could be implemented, but explained they would likely be brought in for “hotspots” such as for specific streets, buildings, or even a high street where an outbreak of cases is recorded.

Both Greenwich and Bexley said the authority would have to play a leading role in supporting vulnerable people in locked-down areas, ensuring those isolating have access to food, medicines or other essentials.

Dr Ghosh said the council would play an important position in supporting the lockdown using “our powers of persuasion…and guidance”.

This Is Local London: High streets across London have new measures to encourage social distancing. High streets across London have new measures to encourage social distancing.

The meetings also heard details about how close local services came to being overrun during the peak of the pandemic across the Easter weekend in April.

Val Davison, the chair of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said there was about 150 coronavirus patients at that time across Lewisham Hospital and Queen Elizabeth, as their intensive care units swelled to triple their usual capacity.

She said cases had dropped steadily since than – with just four new cases recorded on June 11 across both hospitals, compared to 350 six weeks earlier.

Both Greenwich council leader Dan Thorpe and Bexley counterpart Teresa O’Neill praised the amount of work authorities and health partners had undertaken in the past few months, with Conservative head Cllr O’Neill calling it a “phenomenal achievement”.

“We were all pushed into it but reality what has been achieved over that period has been absolutely phenomenal,” she said, adding that partners had a “tremendous debt of gratitude from all Bexley residents”.