Are we ‘Test and Trace’ ready?

From: Imogen Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Sussex

A COVID-19 testing center.  (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) PPP-200107-131437003
A COVID-19 testing center. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) PPP-200107-131437003

The Leicester outbreak shows that at last, government has recognised that centralisation is not working, and as usual has dumped the problem on local government. Also as usual, local government is not allowed to get the “job done”, as central government cannot be relied on to provide information needed. Time is of the essence. Covid-19 outbreaks start small and spread rapidly.

To control an outbreak, quick action is need to lockdown a defined area before Covid-19 spreads. Data on the rate of infection by postcode is needed, as well as detail about risk factors such as age, gender and ethnicity, yet local data about the infection is still withheld from councils and residents.

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Delay in Leicester resulted in much of the city being locked down. If city authorities had been given the rate of infection by postcode and allowed to organise lockdown themselves, including test and trace, most people would have been spared ongoing misery and economic hardship of lockdown, not to mention harm caused to individuals by Covid-19 itself. In East Sussex, a high proportion of our population is in high risk older age groups, and then there’s the care homes.

We have been fortunate in East Sussex so far, but our low rate of infection could change with the influx of summer day–trippers following end of the current lockdown. East Sussex and Public Health England must as a matter of urgency come together with private providers and others to develop a plan to manage local outbreaks. In the first instance, they must make sure GPs are given data about their patients. We need to know that Public Health locally is on the case, it is our communities that are at risk.

Imogen Taylor

Emeritus Professor of Social Work
University of Sussex

Dr Maggie Wearmouth

Semi-retired GP

Cllr. Richard Morland

Retired Senior Lecturer

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