Door knocking team to be formed tasked with tracking down people who have encountered Covid-19 patients in Southend

A team of Southend Council officers is to be formed to help track down people who have encountered someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The officers will be tasked with contacting people on their doorsteps and alerting them when they need to self-isolate if the national track and trace system is unable to find them using their phone number or email address.

The council confirmed they are looking to have up to 20 existing council officers on the team and each will work on standby, ready to be called up as and when they are needed.

Door knocking is something very few councils are doing but Southend believes the proactive measure will help to prevent further outbreaks in the community.

Krishna Ramkhelawon, director of public health, said: “We are very pleased to be one of the first councils in the country not under national intervention to be putting this local system into place which will help to support the national test and trace system.

“We have identified 20 employees to be redeployed and trained to identify and contact those not reached by the national system. The staff will be able to advise local people of the new law around self-isolation and also provide guidance about the support that may be available to them.

“The new team will be on standby to do this work and go out into the community and door knock where necessary. An effective test and trace system is vital as we seek to control the spread of coronavirus, and so we are pleased to be taking this action and putting this in place which will help to protect local communities.”

Data at the end of last week showed 237 people in Southend had been in contact with Covid-19 patients and needed to be contacted.

The Government has been relying on people’s honesty when giving their names, phone numbers and addresses when they enter coffee shops, pubs and restaurants.

That could change on Thursday with the launch of a contact-tracing app for smart phones.

The app has been heavily delayed due to privacy concerns and technical problems but it is now expected to launch at the end of the week

Rather than rely on people providing personal details, they will be able to download an app onto their phone which uses Bluetooth to log the device’s proximity to other smartphones.

The data is anonymous and if a phone is logged as being near to someone who has fallen ill, the owner will be notified they need to self-isolate.

While it is likely to simplify track and trace it is reliant on people installing the app.

Southend Council confirmed they are looking to have up to 20 existing council officers on the team and each will work on standby, ready to be called up as and when they are needed.

Door knocking is something very few councils are doing but Southend believes the proactive measure will help to prevent further outbreaks in the community.

Krishna Ramkhelawon, director of public health, said: “We are very pleased to be one of the first councils in the country not under national intervention to be putting this local system into place which will help to support the national test and trace system.

“We have identified 20 employees to be redeployed and trained to identify and contact those not reached by the national system. The staff will be able to advise local people of the new law around self-isolation and also provide guidance about the support that may be available to them.

“The new team will be on standby to do this work and go out into the community and door knock where necessary. An effective test and trace system is vital as we seek to control the spread of coronavirus, and so we are pleased to be taking this action and putting this in place which will help to protect local communities.”

Data at the end of last week showed 237 people in Southend had been in contact with Covid-19 patients and needed to be contacted.

The Government has been relying on people’s honesty when giving their names, phone numbers and addresses when they enter coffee shops, pubs and restaurants.

That could change on Thursday with the launch of a contact-tracing app for smart phones.

The app has been heavily delayed due to privacy concerns and technical problems but it is now expected to launch at the end of the week

Rather than rely on people providing personal details, they will be able to download an app onto their phone which uses Bluetooth to log the device’s proximity to other smartphones.

The data is anonymous and if a phone is logged as being near to someone who has fallen ill, the owner will be notified they need to self-isolate.

While it is likely to simplify track and trace it is reliant on people installing the app.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter