Track and trace won’t work on seafront say Southend councillors

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There are major concerns about the new track and trace in Southend with council bosses saying “it won’t work”.

The Government has begun implementing the new system aimed at finding people who comes in close contact with those infected with COVID-19.

Initial plans were to roll out a phone app that uses location data, but instead the Government is planning to do it manually where if a person is tested positive for the virus they will be contacted to discuss who they have come into contact with.

But council bosses in Southend have said the system will not work.

The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Ron Woodley, said: “If I go to the beach then go home and feel unwell, get tested and find out I have coronavirus, they will come to me and say who have you been around. On Southend beach how am I supposed to track that?

“It will be okay if you have only been in contact within the bubble of people around you but if you have been to the beach where there could be 20,000 people on the High Street, how will you do it?

“Do you go out and hold a big banner saying I’ve got Covid-19, I was on the beach and if you were too you better contact your local hospital?”

His concerns were echoed by Cllr Martin Terry, who oversees public safety.

“I can see a lot of difficulties with a town like Southend,” he said.

“You have the local population as well as visitors to think about.

“I am sceptical about how it will work in a town where we also have so many commuters going to and from London. I see real issues with this.”

The Government has also said that it expects local authorities to be heavily involved in how the track and trace system works but it is understood that despite the public announcement, limited guidance has been passed to councils themselves.

Cllr Trevor Harp, who oversees adult social care and health, explained the authority has been directed to produce a virus control plan that will outline how the council will work with communities and businesses to develop measures that will support the track and trace system.

It will also outline how the authority will ensure testing can take place.

“Contact tracing is an important part of ensuring local areas like Southend can both adapt to the relaxation measures being announced, and safely open up for more business and activity in a phased and safe way,” he added.

“There is an expectation that locally elected councillors will have a role to play through a local board, which will ensure public transparency and engagement with local people.

“In Southend we expect to do this working with and through the health and wellbeing board.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter