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Southwark passes Council Assembly motion imploring government to fix a broken Test and Trace system

30 November 2020

Wednesday evening’s Council Assembly saw a motion passed on ‘Resilient Southwark: responding to the ongoing pandemic’, which recognised the brilliant work of Southwark’s local Test and Trace programme, run by the Public Health team. The motion denounced the government’s inability to ‘control the virus and bring down infection rates with an effective Test and Trace system; instead rolling out a system which does not meet its own self-set targets, loses crucial data and rakes in profits for private companies.’ 

Local councillors were damning in their criticism of the national programme, on a day when it was revealed that Test and Trace failed to contact 109,903 people in the worst-hit areas of the UK between 7th September and 4th November, missing a huge opportunity to bring down the R rate and number of deaths in the country. The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that Test and Trace would need to reach an 80% close contact rate to be effective, and the programme is currently reaching an average of 59.6% close contacts. 

The motion follows a joint letter from the Leaders of Labour London councils to Boris Johnson, calling for a staged transfer of Test and Trace funding and responsibility to local government in order to improve its effectiveness. 

Southwark Test and Trace was launched on the 21st September, operating seven days a week. It takes all positive cases who have not responded to national NHS Test and Trace contact within 24 hours and attempts to contact them, and is currently achieving an 87% contact rate. Residents are contacted via phone and then through door knocking if they cannot be reached by phone, and when making contact, council staff can signpost residents to financial or welfare support.

Cllr Kieron Williams, Leader of the Council, said: ‘The Government must properly fund the NHS and local authority Public Health teams - not failing corporations - to run a fully functioning test, trace, isolate and support system. One of the reasons for the broken system is that it has been outsourced to private companies, when councils have shown that a localised approach works best.’ 

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Community Safety and Covid-19 Lead, said: ‘I’m pleased that a motion has passed recognising the stellar work of Test and Trace Southwark. Hopefully the government will now swallow their pride and transfer funding and responsibility to local authorities so we can continue to protect our residents’. 


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