Teenagers gathering in groups led to a small spike in coronavirus cases that is now passing, according to Barnet’s public heath chief.

Dr Tamara Djuretic, director of public health for Barnet Council, said the rate of infection in the borough had risen to around 25 to 26 per 100,000 people during the past couple of weeks.

This was due to “a number of small, private gatherings that took place among teenagers in the borough and also in Brent, Borehamwood and Enfield”, she added.

But the infection rate had fallen over the last few days and “is now around 19 or 20 per 100,000, which is really reassuring”, the health official said.

Dr Djuretic was speaking at a meeting of the adults and safeguarding committee on Thursday (September 17), where she updated councillors on the local response to the pandemic.

Her comments came as rising cases across the UK led to more localised lockdowns – and some people reported being unable to book coronavirus tests.

Dr Djuretic told councillors there was an increased focus on younger people who “relaxed” during the summer months, while people over 60 and those with underlying conditions “have probably taken more precautionary measures”.

She said Barnet was no longer in the top ten London boroughs when it came to the number of cases, having previously been in the top three.

There has been a mobile coronavirus testing unit in the borough for the past two weeks – although this has been affected by a reduced capacity for testing, Dr Djuretic added.

“There is something about pushing the communications out that people who don’t have symptoms of Covid should not be tested,” she said.

“That partly contributed to this increase – people coming back from holiday wanted to be tested to get out of quarantine, which is not the right thing to do, and also people who have coughs and sneezes but not actually Covid symptoms.”

Dr Djuretic said health chiefs were looking at getting access to testing for members of the workforce who needed to be prioritised.

They also aim to recruit “Covid health champions” to spread the message on social distancing and other coronavirus guidelines.

Dr Djuretic added: “We haven’t had many cases from care settings over the last few weeks and we have not had any deaths. The few cases that have been picked up have been picked up by the whole-care testing. It is mostly staff, I would say, and that is the national picture, too.”

Cllr Reema Patel (Labour, Coppetts) asked what preparations were being made for a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Dr Djuretic said the council had put in place a local control plan that sets out the measures needed to deal with outbreaks of the virus in certain settings. She added that the borough had around 100,000 pieces of personal protective equipment in stock to use in settings such as care homes.

“What we all need to do is ensure NHS test and trace is being utilised,” she said. “The main thing is actually very simple – it is social distancing, washing your hands, and if you have symptoms, test yourself and speak to NHS test and trace.”