Hackney Mayor urges government to get a grip on test and trace as new coronavirus cases soar to 360 in one week

A campaigner outside the Department of Health and Social Care office in London protesting over Serco's handling of the...

A campaigner outside the Department of Health and Social Care office in London protesting over Serco's handling of the test, track and trace system. Picture: Victoria Jones/ PA Wire/PA Images - Credit: PA

Hackney’s Mayor Philip Glanville has urged the government to fix its test and trace system, as cases soar in Hackney.

This week 360 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the borough, nearly doubling from 187 the week before.

There are now 132 cases per 100,000 population, up from 97 cases last week.

Hackney now has the third highest number of positive cases in London, and London will be in the ‘high’ level, or Tier 2, of restrictions from midnight tomorrow, due to the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases across the capital.

Mr Glanville said he welcomed the government’s new restrictions, but called on the Prime Minister and Health Secretary “to not to waste this opportunity” and to “fix test and trace and ensure it is running correctly”.

“This must be done so we can prevent the need for more draconian measures in the future that could have a severe economic impact and wider impact on health and wellbeing,” he said.

Damning figures published by the Department for Health this week show the £12bn Test and Trace programme only managed to reach 63 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the first week of October - meaning 81,000 people were not ever informed they had been in close contact with an infectious coronavirus patient.

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Last week a major glitch saw 16,000 cases go missing, and 20pc of those who test positive are not told for at least three days.

Yet some private sector consultants from Boston Consulting Group are being paid £7,000 a day to help run test and trace - the equivalent of a £1.5m annual wage.

Mr Glanville said: “As the pandemic carries on I am calling for the same level of resourcing for our test and trace work as some private companies have been getting so we can continue this support to our residents.

“From the start, local public health teams should have led on contact tracing. But for the moment, the government is the one with the resources and systems set up now for large scale contact tracing.

“Though we are doing all we can to support this locally, time is now short and this needs to be fixed centrally so we can keep Hackney safe and allow local people to get back to doing the things they love, like seeing their friends and family and returning to local businesses with confidence.

“Turnaround time for testing also needs to improve so that people’s contacts can be identified and notified more quickly.”

He added: “This is a very difficult time for everyone, especially as only a month ago it looked as if life was starting to return to normal, however the virus is still with us and it’s absolutely vital - now more than ever - that we all do everything we can to keep London safe.”

Mr Glanville has also called on the government to create a comprehensive isolation package, so that anyone who needs to self-isolate because of contact tracing or coronavirus symptoms can do so without falling into hardship.

And he also wants to see the government giving further support for businesses.

He said: “We have been disappointed with the level of support on offer to our business, there is very little economic support announced for those affected by Tier 2 and those sectors that will be hardest hit.

“In London the government also needs to listen to us on the £51,000 business rate threshold - this doesn’t work in Hackney and fails to offer support to so many local and small businesses.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Test and Trace system is processing 270,000 tests a day, and that nearly 700,000 people who might otherwise have unknowingly spread coronavirus have been contacted.

“To build the largest diagnostic network in British history, it requires us to work with both public and private sector partners with the specialist skills and experience we need,” they added.