Bristol’s Green Party councillors have called for a new local emergency workforce to “contact trace” new cases of coronavirus to be ready for when the country emerges from lockdown. They call for a local system of testing, contact tracing and quarantine which would enable us to take control of the deadly coronavirus, save lives and avoid further lockdown. The call follows a Green report (1) on the issue published earlier in the month and increasing calls from public health officials for Government to rethink its centralized approach which puts too much focus on a tracing app without the wider system of support needed. (2)
Green Councillors have called on the Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee to look into the issue as a matter of urgency, as well as contacting health professionals and politicians from across the political spectrum, proposing joint work to enable Bristol to be the first local authority to pilot the approach.
Leader of the Green Councillors, Eleanor Combley said:
“The Government has been on the back foot throughout this emergency, failing to understand the importance of testing and contact tracing to contain the virus. We cannot let more people die because the Government does not have a strategy to get us out of lockdown safely.”
“Bristol and the South West have so far avoided being as badly hit as some parts of the country, but this could change quickly when lockdown is lifted. It also means that Bristol is the ideal place to pilot the “community shield” approach to continue to protect our communities and the most vulnerable. We would be keen to pilot the approach in the parts of the city where people are most at risk, such as inner city neighbourhoods or areas with many people who have underlying health conditions.”
“We have an excellent network of public health officials, environmental health experts and GPs across Bristol. Sexual health teams, health visitors and school nurses also have essential skills needed. We need to use the skills of those in our city, alongside many of the specialist volunteers who have come forward, to build an emergency workforce to keep our communities safe. If anywhere can do this, it’s Bristol.”
Last week the Government announced it would recruit 18,000 people across the UK to carry out testing for the virus (3). But Greens have pointed out that the Government’s “5 steps” for easing lockdown ignore the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to “trace every contact” that individuals with the illness have had with other people (4). Also missing, is the vital support that those who are self-isolating need.
The method of testing, tracing and quarantining has been shown to be successful in countries such as Germany and South Korea.[5) Currently, the UK Government says that an app is being developed to track the spread of the virus – but this cannot solve the problem alone. There are also concerns about the data confidentiality credentials of some of the companies that the Government is considering using to provide an app.
Councillor Combley continued saying:
“What we are proposing is a significant task but is also very simple – make sure that everyone who has symptoms of coronavirus and everyone they could have passed it onto is contacted and told to stay at home, with appropriate support. We know this is essential to prevent further outbreaks and save lives when ending the lockdown and will only work if it uses local knowledge and expertise.”