Green councillors call for Bedford based COVID-19 contact trace system

They want the money to be used to fund local track and trace schemes, instead of renewing the national system's contract

Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 4:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 5:00 pm

Green Councillors Lucy Bywater and Ben Foley have called for a full Bedford based contact tracing system to identify those who have come into contact with COVID19 infected people, and prevent further spread of the virus.

World Health Organisation guidelines recommend infectious people are told to isolate, their contacts are traced and told to quarantine, and then followed up to identify new cases.

Green councillors say renewing the national system's contract would be a further disaster and a huge waste of public funds.

Coronavirus stock image

Renewing would give controversial outsourcing giants Serco and Sitel £300 million, they say this money could be used far more effectively to fund local track and trace schemes.

Lucy, who sits on the local Outbreak Engagement Board pointed to examples of other councils where local public health teams have traced far more cases and contacts than the national system.

She said: "Sheffield started doing this in the spring, and we hear from councillors in Lancashire, where a local contact trace system is in place, that an impressive 90%+ of contacts are traced, even after the national system has failed to contact them.

"The national average for contacting those who have tested positive for Covid19 is just 78 per cent.

"Only 72 per cent of people exposed through contact with an infected person are contacted to ask them to take precautions and to check for further cases.

"The national tracing system has identified an average of only 3 contacts per infected person, which is much lower than other tracing systems."

Using local tracing, people can be called or visited to make sure they understand why it is important to self-isolate and provide details of contacts, protecting their area.

Lucy said: "We know that Bedford's public health team have worked incredibly hard and have the local expertise.

"They know the local community and people are more likely to answer the phone to a local number than an unrecognised national number.

"The Government must give local councils the resources to do this though if progress is to be made to help prevent a further lockdown."