29 April 2020
Zoe Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council and Green Party Councillor has contacted East Sussex Council Council Director of Public Health to offer local support to national and county wide effort to recruit ‘contact tracers’.
Last week the government announced a move to large-scale community testing, recruiting 18,000 people across the country – including 3,000 medics and public health workers. This is after contact tracing; a process of testing every new case, tracing contacts and then isolating each case was stopped by the government on the 12th March.
“When contact tracing stopped on March the 12th, we lost precious time and information to help understand the spread of covid19 in our communities. At the same time people with symptoms were told not to go to their GP and only get support from NHS 111 when their symptoms were not manageable. This means we left people scared, frightened and alone. Contact tracing as well as helping us to understand and limit transmission also means that we can target NHS care to where it is needed most, by offering a daily check-in with those who are poorly”
“What is needed if this national programme is to work, is local knowledge and insight. We need a system to find people with the virus, isolate them quickly, and trace all those they have had contact with. If we work together with national bodies, local public health teams and the community, we can create a community based teams of tracers to stop the inevitable spikes of the virus we will see as we come out of lockdown. I have had really positive correspondence with the East Sussex Director of Public Health and have offered to work together to help with the local effort ” says Councillor Zoe Nicholson.
Councillor Chris Collier, Leader of the Labour group on the Co-operative Alliance says
“It’s essential that the government invests in a new locally-based public health workforce and possibly expert volunteer case finders and contact tracers – probably around 30 or more staff for a district the size of Lewes. The government is working on new technologies such as phone apps, but these will not be sufficient in themselves. They might not be trusted by the public and many people don’t have smart phones”
Contact tracing is being used in many other countries including Germany, where it is used to complement the reduction in lockdown restrictions to help communities get back to work.
James MacCleary, Deputy Leader, Lewes District Council and Lib Dem Leader in the Co-operative Alliance says “In Lewes, where 90% of our businesses are very small and a high proportion are in are mostly in the hospitality sector they are really suffering from the impact of this virus. We need a system of community contact tracing so we can give people confidence that the virus is stamped out. Our councils can work together with Public Health England and the community to understand where the virus is and isolate it quickly. We have to accept that we may have this virus around for months and years to come, so building our local expertise to stop spread in the coming months is going to be essential to support our businesses back on their feet”
Notes to Editors
Government plans for national contact tracing programme led by Public Health England was communicated to local Directors of Public Health last week.
Contact tracing is a public health method of containing a communicable disease, it involves identifying patients with symptoms, testing or diagnosis via symptoms, isolating the patient, tracing all known contacts and offering isolation advice to other contacts. The government's plans involves a phone app and call centre staff.