Face-to-face socialising between different households should “stop immediately” to curb the spread of coronavirus in London, according to Redbridge Council’s leader.

The east London borough had the highest rate of Covid-19 in the capital last week, with 58.6 cases per 100,000 people.

It sits among a cluster of councils with surging infection rates – and the entire city is now on the national watchlist as an area of greatest concern.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal warned today (Monday September 28) that a lack of Covid-19 tests in London is “the spectre that’s looming over all of us”.

Read more: Redbridge should 'consider local lockdown' according to London-wide document

“We’ve lost 44 per cent of our testing capacity over the last couple of weeks so the numbers could actually be a lot higher than what they are being shown all across London,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.

Most of the cases in Redbridge are concentrated in Ilford South, Mr Athwal said.

But a major testing site in Ilford that previously processed up to 800 coronavirus swabs a day now does as few as 100 “because of capacity issues at the national laboratories,” the leader warned.

“Of course if you’re losing that kind of capacity the figures are going to be distorted and they’re going to probably be a lot worse than is being shown,” he added.

Read more: London added to Covid-19 watchlist as 620 cases are confirmed in 24 hours

The Labour councillor believes Redbridge has been hard hit because of extreme overcrowding in the borough.

But higher testing rates in outer London than the city centre could be skewing figures, and Covid-19 rates in inner London are “definitely higher” than they appear, he warned.

Mr Athwal said lockdown restrictions are urgently needed to stop households from mixing, particularly in overcrowded areas of the city.

Read more: King George Hospital coronavirus outbreak spread virus to uninfected patients

“Mixing face-to-face should be stopped immediately because there are problems and we’re seeing the pandemic taking hold,” he said

“It’s only going to get worse with the flu season coming into play as well.”

It comes after Tottenham MP David Lammy warned it is now “very likely” that London will follow other regions of the UK into a second lockdown.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is also pushing for more measures in the city, and a ban on households mixing to control the virus.

There are currently no local restrictions in the capital, but an update from Government is expected this week.