‘If we need to knock at your door then we will’ says Southend councillor as contact tracing begins

Almost 250 people could be contacted on their doorsteps after encountering someone infected with Covid-19, a Southend Council boss has confirmed.

The door-to-door inquiries could begin in a matter of days because the council’s track and trace team has been unable to get in touch with 237 people using phone or email.

Cllr Trevor Harp

Councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in the borough, called it the “ultimate remedy” to locating people.

He said: “We are doing this because we have been trying to trace a number of individuals. If we can’t get them on email or on the phone numbers they provided then the ultimate remedy to finding people is knocking on their front doors.

“This is a last resort for us and it is not something that we particularly want to do because it is labour intensive but ultimately we will try and track people down as much as we can and if that means knocking on your front door then we will know on your front door.”

He said there was no indication the 237 individuals that need to be traced are linked to one specific venue or event.

Speaking of the information the council is able to collect on individuals for test and trace, he said the authority relies on people “being honest” when they fill in track and trace forms.

If they are unable to locate people through knocking on doors, they may have to give up tracking them.

Cllr Harp continued: “We are dependent on people being honest when they fill in track and trace details. If not then there is not an awful lot we can do about that.

“People may give false details for one reason or another and we can only track and trace with the information supplied. It is down to people being responsible and helping us beat this pandemic.”

He acknowledged some may be concerned about giving out personal information to restaurants or pubs but insisted that everything given to businesses is protected under GDPR and destroyed within 21 days.

“The reason we say 21 days is quite simple,” he added.

“It may take seven days for symptoms to appear, then two or three days for a test and after 10 days we start contact tracing, after 14 days we have about a week to follow up. It would be no good for us to say destroy it after 14 days.

“There is strict guidance to businesses that the data should be retained securely not left lying around. It must be held securely. I can assure you the council only uses data for contact tracing.

“We are not keeping any data longer than we need and we are not creating some sort of database.”

Details of the 237 people who could have potentially encountered someone with the virus has come the same day as the Government’s top scientists gave a fresh warning about the spread of the Covid-19, stating that new cases across the country are doubling every seven days.

The chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty also urged people to take responsibility by following all guidance from the Government.

He said: “If we don’t do enough, the virus will take off and that is the path we are clearly on.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter