Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:56 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Navendu Mishra Navendu Mishra Labour, Stockport 5:56 pm, 14th October 2020

I understand the points the hon. Lady is making, but I think contact tracing in Greater Manchester and places with very high rates of infection has not worked as well as it should have. I am pleased to hear that in her constituency it is working well, but I think the Government need to come forward with a proper package to support jobs in the hospitality sector if they are going to force regions like the Liverpool city region or Greater Manchester into tier 3.

The Government are dangling the carrot of local control of test and trace. However, this should be on offer for all areas, and is more likely to be effective in areas that are in tier 1 and tier 2. If this Government pursue their current strategy, they will leave large parts of the north of England trapped in tier 3 for much of the winter. Given that cases are forecast to rise sharply as this Government lose control and refuse to provide the substantial economic support that tier 3 areas will need, I fully support the call by a number of local authority leaders in Greater Manchester for a national circuit break. This would also create the conditions for a reset of the test and trace service into a more locally controlled option, which will hopefully drive cases down to a lower level and be more likely to succeed.

The only way to defeat the virus is for national and local government to work hand in hand, upskill the local test and trace system, delegate sufficient powers and provide the financial support that is so desperately required after 10 years of austerity and having stumped up millions during the first phase of this pandemic. But instead of addressing the failures of a privatised and centralised contact tracing model, this Government choose to keep pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into the likes of Serco to lead the effort on tracking and tracing. This is despite the recent poll by Survation revealing that 74% of the public wanted to see local public health teams, rather than profit-making companies, leading on this. Our European partners have had systems in place since May, yet almost six months later this Government are rushing to hand the nearest contract to big business with no track record of delivery or success.

It is clear is that we cannot have more of the same from this Government such as the shambles of being informed by a Health Minister that a new testing centre was being opened for my constituents on a University of Greenwich campus 240 miles away in Kent. I have already made it clear to the House that I am willing to accept that the letter was an error, but it further exposes the Government’s complete mishandling of this crisis. In the absence of any effective form of test and trace, frontline staff, including all workers in hospitals, schools and local authorities, must be provided with access to adequate personal protective equipment.