Test and trace slow on the uptake in east London

Just two Waltham Forest residents have participated in the Government’s Test and Trace system since it was launched on May 28.

In neighbouring Redbridge, 12 people have tested positive through the scheme, identifying a further six sufferers, out of a population of more than 300,000.

The NHS Test and Trace service is a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy but has been widely criticised for results delays, poor information-sharing and privacy issues.

Speaking on June 3, Redbridge leader Cllr Jas Athwal accused the Government of rushing out a “half-baked” scheme “to fit their political agenda”.

He said: “Mass testing and tracing is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“However, the Government’s plan is inadequate, ill prepared and isn’t currently fit for purpose.

“We are at best, weeks away from having the full system up and running – it might be ready at the end of this month but not before.

“Test results are still often delayed, vital tracing data has not been shared with local authorities, and there is still no tracing app.”

He argued that councils needed “timely access to usable data” and “powers to enforce local lockdowns” and were not given enough time to prepare.

He also called for “permanent local, accessible test centres” and “a user-friendly app or at least a working website”.

Cllr Mark Santos, responsible for Health, Social Care, Mental Health & the Ageing, added: “The test and trace service is critical to our ability to safely manage the easing of lockdown & helping us navigate the pandemic.

“The Government must stop playing politics and get its act together and ensure this national service is the best it can as soon as possible.”

A Waltham Forest Council spokesperson said only that the council would “continue to work with partners to ensure a smooth rollout locally as the system evolves.

They added: “ The council is well prepared to support any vulnerable residents that must isolate as a result of being in contact with someone with COVID-19, thanks to our excellent community support network.

“We continue to encourage all residents that have symptoms of fever, new continuous cough, and loss of taste or smell to get themselves tested, by going to the national website to arrange.”

To book a test, go to: www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter