Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:36 pm, 14th October 2020

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point and highlighting that 17 million individuals have downloaded the app. I am sure many in this House are using it frequently, because that helps us to test and trace. He also raises the point about talking to other countries, which we do in order to learn. When we have spoken to other countries, they, too, have reinforced the fact that this is not only about local systems and it is important to have an overarching national system and local systems as well.

As the Secretary of State said to the House yesterday:

“Local action has proved to be one of our most important lines of defence.”—[Official Report, 13 October 2020;
Vol. 682, c. 198.]

Beating this virus is about a series of building blocks. Every day, week in, week out, we are in constant dialogue with local areas to make sure there is support on the ground for extra measures and that the local perspective is combined with the wealth of data we now have, and share, on the spread of this virus. The next evolution of this, thanks in large part to the wealth of data and the insight of Test and Trace, which we did not have at the early stage of the pandemic, is introducing the three covid alert levels that the House voted to approve last night, demonstrating our commitment to respond on a much more targeted and local basis, working closely with community leaders and communities.

Over the past few months, we have built a massive national infrastructure for testing. That work has involved local authorities identifying and setting up testing sites that work for their local areas, and deploying mobile testing where it is most needed. I wish to place on record my thanks to the Army, as we know that its deployment and mobility around the country has given us another tool in the toolbox in order to be able to fight. It is with great thanks to the local authorities that we now have more than 500 testing sites; many more are local walk-in sites to make it easier and quicker for people living in urban areas. The median distance travelled in person to a test is just 3.7 miles.