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Wed, 30 September 2020

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We don't need a 'world beating' test and trace system, we just need a working one

We don't need a 'world beating' test and trace system, we just need a working one

An ineffective test and trace system is a real barrier not just to the country’s health, but to our economy, writes Kate Hollern MP. | PA Images

4 min read

With schools returning in September, if test and trace isn't dramatically improved - and quickly – local outbreaks could become deadly national ones.

Like the rest of the country, the vast majority of people in Blackburn have followed the Government’s guidance.

As a pluralistic and thriving community, Blackburn is the best of Britain and I’ve had the privilege to call it home for more than 40 years.

The spike in the infection rate over the last several weeks has in many cases been structural – Blackburn has high levels of deprivation and intergenerational families live in the same households. Coupled with an intensive testing programme, we are now picking up cases that would have otherwise not been captured.

I want the Government to succeed in the national interest, but the test and trace system has failed the people of Blackburn, which is why we have set up our own.

Given the infection rate in parts of the country, and international warnings of a resurgence in the virus, it is right that the Government has taken the measures it has in the North to bring the infection rates down.

I want the Government to succeed in the national interest, but the test and trace system has failed the people of Blackburn, which is why we have set up our own.

The Government outsourced test and trace to the likes of Serco, which has announced a 53% increase in profits for the first half of the year, whereas local public health teams are embedded in their communities.  

Contact rates are far from ‘world beating’ as Boris Johnson has promised, and that hasn’t helped prevent the spread of local outbreaks. I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is in the absence of a functioning system for local outbreaks to spread.

With schools returning in September, if test and trace isn't dramatically improved - and quickly – local outbreaks could become deadly national ones.

Labour have been a constructive opposition.

We have supported the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions. We want people to be able to get back to work and to see their families and loved ones. We want children back at school and to see our economy start growing again.

But, it has to be carefully planned and clearly communicated by the Government.

Without a test and trace system that works, people still do not have confidence in the Government’s approach.

There are real consequences to not getting this right. An ineffective test and trace system is a real barrier not just to the country’s health, amid the risk of a second wave, but to our economy.

Alongside a well-functioning test and trace system, there needs to be a strong safety net to protect workers.

Until the Government gets a grip on responding to the health situation, any efforts to tackle to the economic crisis we face cannot be fully effective.

Families aren’t staying at home because they're waiting for a tenner off their meal. They're staying at home because they're still worried about the virus.

It’s not enough to tell people to go back to work or back to the shops. The public need the confidence that the Government has a plan.

That is why alongside a well-functioning test and trace system, there needs to be a strong safety net to protect workers.

We can’t put people in a position where they have to decide whether to self-isolate or to put food on the table.

Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to listen to the concerns of people who weren’t covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Job Retention Schemes.

The Chancellor said he wouldn’t pick winners and losers during this crisis, but by refusing to make simple amendments to plug the gaps in his schemes he’s done just that.

We don't even need a 'world beating' test and trace system, we just need a working one.

We don’t just want a tenner off our meal – we need targeted support that prioritises jobs and leaves no one behind.

 

Kate Hollern is the Labour MP for Blackburn and shadow minister for houisng, communities and local government.

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