A new campaign encouraging rapid testing, particularly among south Asian communities in east London, has been launched to coincide with the end of Ramadan and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Research has shown that Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with south Asian people more likely to test positive for Covid, become severely ill and die than any other minority ethnic group in the UK.

Waltham Forest Council's campaign aims to reach these groups and other seldom-heard communities who may be hesitant to get tested or need help accessing testing for Covid-19 because of language difficulties or no access to online information.

The campaign will help build public understanding about the importance of regular testing despite the easing of lockdown, explain how testing is necessary to stay safe, and encourage people to get tested even if they’ve been vaccinated.

This includes rapid testing for people with no Covid symptoms, with results delivered in as little as 30 minutes.

Over the next few weeks, the campaign will have a significant presence on south Asian-specific channels, including digital platforms and radio. The campaign will also be supported by faith-based charities such as local congregation, Noor ul Islam.

Noor ul Islam worked with the council during Ramadan to ensure their community was given facts, advice and support. After addresses by the Imam, Chairman and a mosque officer on the importance of testing, 250 test kits were distributed within 24 hours.

Yusuf Hansa, chairman of Noor ul Islam, said: "Noor ul Islam has more than 3,000 users and supporters from within and outside Waltham Forest. As a registered charity looking after the social, educational and welfare needs of the local community, we are pleased to be working with Waltham Forest council for the betterment of the community.

"During Ramadan, we have been advising our congregation on the importance of testing, how to use the lateral flow test and what to do if this comes up as positive. With the council’s support, we have been able to put in place a really great offer to help keep our local community safe as we continue to move out of lockdown."

In Waltham Forest, rapid test kits can be accessed currently from four asymptomatic test sites, six leisure centres, three libraries, ten pharmacies, and a range of faith-based and community settings.

Around 13,000 rapid tests are carried out a week in Waltham Forest.

Joe McDonnell, director of public health at Waltham Forest Council, said: "One in three people who have Covid-19 do not have any symptoms but can still spread the virus to others without knowing it. Rapid testing is the best way to discover if you have the virus even if you feel well, and you’ll get your result in 30 minutes.

"I urge everyone to get a free test at least twice a week if you feel fine. If you have any of the Covid symptoms – a persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss or change of smell or taste – you should self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test.

"As more and more restrictions are eased, we also need to understand that the virus is still among us and everyone, even those who have been vaccinated, is still at risk.

"By working together with key partners in the south Asian community on this campaign, we will be able to reach over 100,000 people from Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds within our borough and beyond who may be at risk from the virus."

Tests can also be carried out at home. Since March 2021, the council has distributed nearly 100,000 home test kits, each of which contain seven individual tests, making them currently the only local authority in the UK to have this achievement.

In the final week of May, Waltham Forest's weekly coronavirus case rate stood at 27.1 cases per 100,000 population (75 cases), up from a rate of 16.2 the week before. The rate of 27.1 is around the 100th highest out of just over 300 local authorities in England.

More information coronavirus testing in Waltham Forest is available at www.walthamforest.gov.uk/staysafe