Martin Ford 16 October 2020

Counties warn of test and trace ‘missed opportunity’

Counties warn of test and trace ‘missed opportunity’ image

Calls for more support for local contact tracing have been redoubled after the national system’s success rate plummeted.

Latest statistics show the level of contacts traced by the national system dropped to 57.6% in the week ending October 7 – the lowest weekly figure recorded so far.

Local test and trace teams successfully traced 97.7% in the same period.

Councils have demanded control over the system across the board after local systems consistently outperformed the national counterpart.

Currently, additional flexibility and support has only been offered to councils in the worst-affected areas in the ‘very high’ alert tier.

County Councils' Network (CCN) health and social care spokesman, Cllr David Fothergill, said: ‘Centralised tracing efforts are no substitute for public health teams’ local knowledge and expertise.

‘We urge the government to give local authorities the ability to take over test and trace in their areas rather than just the areas with the most severe rises in cases.’

CCN chairman Cllr David Williams added: ‘If only the areas that are on high alert are allowed to take over test and trace efforts then this will have been a huge missed opportunity.

‘Counties are ready to roll this out quickly – but this should be for all areas rather than ones with the highest cases in recognition that it will be a truly national effort that will suppress the virus.’

The Local Government Association (LGA) is pressing for access to more data on cases, in addition to increased funding and recruitment of extra personnel.

Chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, said: ‘Councils are taking the lead by launching their own locally-supported contact tracing arrangements, to complement the national system, but they need clearer, more precise information on who they should be trying to contact as soon as possible.

‘This should include details such as occupation and workplace, working with police and others to share local intelligence.’

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