Dan Peters 03 July 2020

Councils in local virus data call

Councils have called for the Government to go further after it finally started to publish more coronavirus testing data.

Chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, said the new data failed to give councils the information they needed to specifically identify where in their area outbreaks were occurring.

He said councils also wanted improvements to the individual case data that public health officials have started to receive, including the data for all tests and more information about workplaces.

Leader of the LGA’s Labour group, Nick Forbes, tweeted that the current data failed to include negative test results and often the postcode was of the test centre or patient’s doctor rather than their home, which he said ‘renders it useless’.

England’s first local lockdown started in Leicester earlier this week after increasing levels of infection were reported in the city.

Data from Leicester showed case numbers rising from Wednesday June 17 but detailed postcode-level information from so-called pillar two community tests was slow to reach frustrated local leaders.

Local authorities had warned since early May that the results of hundreds of thousands of these  tests were not being shared with them, leaving councils with ‘no idea’ where disease clusters were located.

The MJ understands that local resilience forums told the Government weeks ago that without this data it would be ‘impossible to identify local outbreaks’.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick said Leicester was a reminder that there was ‘no room for complacency’.

He said the Government would ‘learn the lessons from Leicester’ and ensure that local areas received the ‘right data at the right times’.

Cllr Hudspeth said: ‘The most important thing is that the public and those working on the frontline get a complete picture of the impact this virus has had in our neighbourhoods and in our communities, regardless of how the data is collected and where it is processed.

'This will help councils to work with their communities, to manage potential outbreaks and prevent the spread of infection.’

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