Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam 6:32 pm, 14th October 2020

Today, Sheffield’s director of public health, Greg Fell, said that it is not a matter of if, but when, Sheffield heads into tier 3 lockdown. Yesterday, he reported that the number of cases in the city stands at 450 in 100,000, taken as a rolling seven-day average.

Sheffield has two fantastic, world-class universities. Since the return to teaching, we have seen a large spike in cases among the 15 to 25-year-olds in my city, but the virus is spreading beyond that group. Our public health team is reporting a significant increase in cases among the over-65s. We have also seen more people admitted to hospital, and more people given oxygen and ventilation. I am sure there are Members from across the House who can report very similar experiences.

Sheffield’s local public health team is clear that getting this under control needs a quick turnaround of test results, and rapid and complete contact tracing. People in my constituency and across the country desperately need a functioning test, track and trace—and do not forget isolate—system, but the Government are failing them. Many people in my constituency have contacted me to say they have struggled to access a test, and that when they have finally got hold of one it has taken far too long to receive results, with one in four people receiving their test results later than the 24-hour period promised by the Prime Minister.

I am one of the few Members in this place who has experience as both a biomedical scientist and a deputy leader of a council, so I am in a pretty unique position to talk about the research that is going on at the moment in our universities. In research conducted by Unite, we heard some shocking reports from NHS scientists about the under-utilisation of NHS testing labs. Meanwhile, the privatised network of Lighthouse labs has seen backlogs of 185,000 tests.