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 believe that the Minister for Universities answered an urgent question in this House last week, and I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman refers the challenges he has on the university to her, she would be more than happy to work with him. I just refer him back to the fact that we are working with all local authorities.

While talking about testing, I would like to take the opportunity to remind the House about the scale of testing. It was 2,000 people a day when the pandemic began in March, and when NHS Test and Trace began our capacity was over 128,000. The capacity is now over 340,000. We have processed over 25 million tests, and one in eight people in England have been tested for the virus. I am really keen that we understand the size of this challenge. We have built the largest diagnostic network in British history, including five major labs, 96 NHS labs and Public Health England labs, and we are expanding further. We have pilots going with some of our greatest universities. We are working with hospitals, with the addition of new Lighthouse laboratories in Charnwood, Newcastle and Bracknell, as well as new partnerships only last week with Birmingham University and Health Service Laboratories in London, so we are expanding.

Right at the start of NHS Test and Trace, we worked with all 152 local authorities to help them develop their local outbreak plans. We have ensured access to data, and when it was highlighted that there was a need for better data flow, we worked on it to provide them with additional support to respond to outbreaks, such as with enhanced testing. We have also published the covid-19 contain framework—the blueprint for how Test and Trace is working in partnership with local authorities, the NHS, local businesses, community partners and the wider public so that we can target outbreaks. We introduced new regulations to give local authorities additional powers when they ask for them to stop the transmission of the virus, giving them the ability to restrict local public gatherings and events, and the power to close local business premises and outdoor spaces if it is deemed necessary. This includes more support for local test and trace, more funding for local enforcement and the offer of the armed services in areas of very high alert.