TEST AND TRACE: Contact tracing goes local in Solihull
It was confirmed this week that responsibility had been transferred from the nationally-run team to the council’s own public health officials.
It is the latest local authority to announce it has taken charge as part of a pilot scheme known as Local-Zero.
The move follows previous criticism of the performance of the national Test and Trace system and repeated calls to make the operation less centralised.
It’s understood the new Solihull-led set-up, designed to provide “rapid local contact tracing and practical help for self isolation”, launched in late March.
And the council has confirmed that nine out of ten contacts are being traced.
Updating full council, Cllr Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “We have now fully taken on the contact tracing for all cases from the national team, so that’s now our responsibility.
“And I have to say our public health team have been working extremely hard and – the success rate so far – we are up to 91 per cent.”
The contact tracing which formed part of the national government-appointed Test and Trace system had regularly come under fire.
Throughout last year it had consistently failed to hit a key target of tracing 80 per cent of people, prompting concerns it was failing to stop the spread.
Solihull Green Party is among those to have slated its performance and had backed calls for a council-driven approach, with arguments local knowledge would be a huge advantage.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had last month defended the programme, arguing it had helped in the effort to “reopen our economy and restart our lives.”
Solihull had originally set up a “backward tracing” team last September, which was intended to gather more information about the cause of outbreaks.
Town halls have taken a greater role more generally since the autumn, but Local-0 places select councils in overall charge of the efforts, in their area, to alert those who may have been infected and ask them to self-isolate.
In an update on the latest local position Cllr Grinsell also confirmed:
- The case rate per 100,000 is now 28.2 – roughly where Solihull was in early September. Encouragingly the rate among those over 60 is down to 8.7.
- Hospital admissions are also low, with 69 new patients last week.
- The community testing centre at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre has been scaled-back to allow the sports hall to reopen, while the North Solihull site has returned to the Newington Centre, in Marston Green.
- The mobile testing van, which has been on the road since last month, was described as “very successful”. It will be at the Hobs Meadow pub car park today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday) from 9.30am-4.30pm.
- Approximately 115,000 Solihull people have now had their first dose of vaccine, with 26,000 having received their second – meaning they are fully vaccinated.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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