Dan Peters 22 May 2020

Councils given £300m and key tracking role

Councils in England will be handed £300m by the Government as they are given a key role in driving forward testing and tracing. 

Under the Government’s plan, upper-tier local authorities will be given responsibility for managing local coronavirus outbreaks.

Top-tier councils have been told to draw up virus control plans by the end of next month in which they will have to detail how they will handle localised outbreaks.

Councils will be allowed to collaborate on a wider geographical footprint if they wish while local resilience forums (LRF) would become involved in cross-border outbreaks or if local authorities are overwhelmed.

The plans will include the drawing up of infection prevention strategies for the likes of workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools, and the identification of high-risk locations, communities and people. They will also be tasked with ensuring testing capacity is deployed effectively to high-risk locations.

Councils will also have to create politically-led local boards, which will communicate openly with the public about the likes of infection rates.

Data on the spread of the virus will be shared with councils and LRFs through the Joint Biosecurity Centre to inform local outbreak planning and lockdown advice could be tailored geographically depending on the local risk.

In a message to councils, Local Government Association chief executive, Mark Lloyd, wrote: ‘We know that COVID-19 is best understood as a pattern of local outbreaks, rather than a national pandemic with similar, but different, impacts felt in all our communities.’

Chairman of the County Councils’ Network, Cllr David Williams, added: ‘Today’s announcement that local authorities will play a leading role in testing, tracking and tracing is a clear vote of confidence for councils.’

Health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said: ‘Test and trace will work at its best with central government working side by side with local authorities.

‘We will work with them to reduce the spread of coronavirus in their area, harnessing their local knowledge and mobilising boots on the ground.’

Health minister Nadine Dorries added: ‘Local authorities will be vital in the effort to contain COVID-19 at a community level.

'The pandemic requires a national effort but that will only be effective as a result of local authorities, working hand in hand with Public Health England and contact tracers to focus on the containment of local outbreaks, in order to control the transmission and the spread of the virus.’

Dominic Harrison asks just how far testing should go.

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