Council to be at heart of localised track and trace programme
The Government announced today that Hackney will be among four London boroughs supporting them in a localised track and trace system to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
This will see Hackney, Camden, Barnet and Newham Councils deploying their local knowledge and expertise to support the central government track and trace programme.
Councils will be the interface between local, regional and national governments. Building on skills and connections already established by Local Authorities’ public health work.
This work will demonstrate how local government is best placed to support a programme of this magnitude. Councils can offer expertise on the local health picture, capacity, mobilised teams of council health officers, community links, communication with local people and partners, and data on area demographics, offering insights into trends and effects on the current outbreak.
The announcement comes after Hackney Council called for local authorities to be more involved with the track and trace system, recognising their knowledge of local communities.
I'm glad that our call, alongside our MPs, for local authorities to be more involved in the planning and response to the pandemic has now been heard. Through localised test and trace across these London boroughs, we will be able to offer our local knowledge and expertise to support the Government's efforts to reduce the spread of the virus – especially to help those who are most marginalised and vulnerable.
Hackney is ready to hit the ground running with this programme, as we have shown in the face of previous public health issues such as measles outbreaks and what we have done in terms of the humanitarian response to coronavirus. We made a clear argument to the Government that a solely centralised approach can’t work alone, that issues like the digital divide and language barriers mean councils like Hackney must have a bigger role. We can now mobilise our partners and communities quickly, working together in order to combat this disease.
As councils we have the public health capability and expertise, as well as credibility with our local communities to work with and support the needs of our diverse boroughs in the face of this pandemic.
I thank the Secretary of State for listening to our requests and including us in this programme to work on a whole systems approach to tackling this pandemic. There has been a profound impact on our communities not only through tragic deaths, but as a result of emerging data on the impact coronavirus has on ethnic minorities and working class people. Which is why local knowledge on populations and health is so key to tackling this virus and protecting vulnerable communities.
Hackney already has connections in place to work with our local voluntary and community sector, alongside regional and national government, to tackle this pandemic together. We look forward to doing our part to make sure residents are safe from coronavirus.
Key immediate areas for the London boroughs to focus on will include arrangements and operating protocols for:
responding to and managing outbreaks in care homes, schools and other residential and communal settings, working very closely with colleagues in Public Health England;
ensuring there is an ongoing offer of support to those residents who will need to isolate if they are a case or a contact of a case, if they need practical help with things like food, and medicines
access to the necessary data in a timely way to understand the distribution of coronavirus in our borough, so we can respond quickly and appropriately;
strong focus on engaging and communicating with our communities, businesses and organisations across the borough so they know how to access testing, contact tracing and follow public health advice during this next pandemic phase – being very mindful of our diverse communities and disproportionate impacts.
The national coronavirus test and tracing service is intended to be delivered through a three tier model. It will combine digital and phone-based contact tracing to identify cases and their close contacts so they can rapidly self-isolate (. More complex outbreaks and situations will be handled in London by the London Coronavirus Response Cell, which will co-ordinate complex outbreak and contact tracing with regional Health Protection Teams, Local Authority Directors of Public Health, and Environmental Health services.