Dan Peters 27 May 2020

Local lockdown powers up in the air

Council powers over calling a local lockdown are still to be thrashed out as the NHS’ test and trace system is formally launched.

Under the system announced by health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will be informed and asked to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days.

Under the plans, the new Joint Biosecurity Centre will use data and advanced analytics to identify risks in order to offer advice, but most interventions are expected to be at local level, with councils potentially called upon to close down towns or a few streets.

Currently, lockdown powers sit with ministers but talks in Whitehall on whether to hand responsibility to councils are expected to take place in June.

Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, cllr Ian Hudspeth, said: 'It is good government has recognised the importance of directors of public health within councils, who need to have the necessary powers and authority to lead the response locally and tackle outbreaks early and aggressively.

'The success of the programme will also depend on the continued support and co-operation of the general public. We believe they would be reassured and encouraged if the roll-out of the service is underpinned by the leadership of their local council.'

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