Councils will play their part in track and trace

By Heather Jameson | 24 April 2020

Councils want to play their part in track and trace plans to limit the spread of coronavirus, the Local Government Association has said.

The Government outlined its plans for an army of thousands of contact tracers to be trained within weeks in an effort to get the country out of lockdown.

Council staff are lined up as part of a three-tier system to locate and isolate anyone potentially infected with COVID-19 before they pass the virus on.

As the country reaches what is expected to be the peak of cases, Public Health England aims to put the new strategy in place within weeks so the Government can start to ease restrictions.

The government plans three levels of contract tracing. An App would automatically alert people who had come near anyone who is later diagnosed with coronavirus.

Public Health England’s most experienced staff would trace outbreaks in hospitals, care homes and other high risk settings.

A further tier of around 18,000 investigators is also planning – and the government aims to make use of council staff such as environmental health officers. NHS volunteers are also being considered.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said the plans needed to make use of local knowledge, and they would need to be supported by additional funding.

‘Councils want to play their full part in the national effort to defeat this disease. Directors of Public Health working in councils, alongside a range of other local services such as environmental health, public health including sexual health services and infection control nurses already have the experience of testing and contact tracing in their communities.

‘They have the necessary skills to work with Government on this, to scale up the system at pace and shape this at a local level.’

But he warned: ‘This extra demand on existing services would need to be met by additional resources and funding, if councils are to help test, trace and isolate those with COVID-19.’

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