County Council welcomes extra resources for coronavirus track and trace system

Essex County Council has welcomed plans to transfer more contact tracing to local teams.

NHS Test and Trace will provide local authorities with a dedicated team of contact tracers for local areas.

As a result the national service will move from 18,000 to 12,000 contact tracers on August 24, with remaining teams to be deployed as part of dedicated local Test and Trace teams.

At the end of May, the Department of Health and Social Care (DoHSC) launched the national NHS Test & Trace system, as part of this it was announced that local contact systems would be set up by local authorities.

For a system being jointly run by Essex County Council (ECC) and Southend, ECC received £5.78million, while Southend Borough Council (SBC) received £887,000 of grant funding from the DoHSC, to deliver the local contact tracing service.

The local contact service will be responsible for identifying, containing and reducing the spread of Covid-19 at a local level. Local contact services will be responsible for “complex cases”. So the Essex and Southend service will support contact tracing for schools, care homes, workplaces and vulnerable groups.

The local service will use testing data from Public Health England (PHE) to track and trace known connections of positive cases, and provide them with advice and guidance. All individuals who have been in close contact with a known positive case will be asked to isolate at home for a period of 14 days.

This generally means that if people have maintained the ideal two meters distance they will not need to self-isolate. However for those that have been within one to two meters of a positive case, self-isolation may be required.

ECC and SBC have commissioned Provide CIC to deliver the contact tracing service, which will work alongside specialist public health staff in both organisations, as well as environmental health officers in city and district councils.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “We are aware of the Government’s plan to transfer more of the contact tracing to local public health teams.

“This is welcome news for Essex and Southend where, thanks to collaboration between Public Health England, NHS providers and local authorities (both lower and upper tiers), we already have an established contact tracing service that is working effectively.”

The local teams are expected to be critical in the handling of a second wave of infections that is expected in the winter.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter