This crisis demands a robust and effective testing regime

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, writes in the September edition of Hackney Today.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney
Six months on from the start of this awful pandemic, our focus remains the same as it did in March – stopping the spread of coronavirus, saving lives, and supporting residents who need our help.

Together, we’ve achieved so much. Whether the NHS heroes who continue to put themselves at risk to help others, the volunteering and donations of local people, or the Council staff who have continued to deliver essential services, we’ve all done our bit.

Over the last couple of months, it’s been important to see businesses safely reopen, residents taking advantage of the summer weather, and children going back to school. But it was always clear that as more people started to get out and about, there would need to be a fully functioning, efficient test and trace system that kept Hackney safe and helped us nip any outbreaks in the bud.

That’s why we campaigned for our mobile testing centres in Dalston and Stamford Hill, have asked people to comply with voluntary restrictions in the north of the borough – where cases have risen – and from this week we have set up a local track and trace system in partnership with the City of London Corporation, which you can read more about here.

I am so frustrated that despite our efforts, the Government-run system is now letting us down and undermining our work. I share people’s anger, frustration and fear about the Government's handling of testing. The safe reopening of schools and the economy is absolutely dependent on the availability of a robust and effective testing regime. However, as it stands, local authorities and public health services are unable to do their job, and it’s now impossible to get an accurate sense of the scale of the virus in Hackney or across the country.

I’ve been inundated with emails from people worried about their experience of accessing the system. People like Will, a GP near London Fields, who wrote to me to say: 

“One of our receptionists can't get a test – he has possible viral symptoms and so can't come to work at the moment as he can’t get the covid all-clear.

“Work is starting to get very busy again after the summer. A lack of testing is potentially going to cripple us if more and more staff have to isolate at home. We urgently need access to tests for staff.”

This simply isn’t good enough. I have written to the Prime Minister, urging him to give this his urgent attention, and Sandra Husbands, our Director of Public Health, has also raised this with the Department for Health and Social Care. Neither of us will stop until we get this fixed. 

In the meantime, we have no alternative but to urge you, if you have symptoms of coronavirus, to continue to try to book a test online or call 119 if you cannot access the internet. If you’re having problems, please let me know at mayor@hackney.gov.uk so I can share your experiences with ministers.

Despite the challenges, it’s vital you play your part to keep Hackney safe, and follow the guidance set out across these pages. We can beat this together.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney

This article originally appeared in the 21 September edition of Hackney Today.