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Pressure on government to scrap privatised Test and Trace system increases

A CROSS-PARTY group of council leaders has called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to scrap privateers’ contracts in the coronavirus test-and trace-scheme.

The Labour, Green and Tory council leaders said that Mr Hancock should fund local public-health teams to run the system instead. 

Three-quarters of the British public agree, with just 14 per cent saying they want it run privately, according to a poll conducted by Survation and commissioned by campaign group We Own It.

Outsourcing giant Serco and call-centre company Sitel were initially contracted to run the system up to August 23. Their contracts were extended, potentially up to the value of £528 million and for an undisclosed time, despite ongoing issues.

Government figures published yesterday show that the system has contacted only 71.3 per cent of those tested for the virus during the latest period, a decrease from 80.8 per cent the week before.

Labour shadow health minister Justin Madders said the drop of nearly 10 per cent was “appalling” and “should not be happening at this point.”

He added: “And on the day it is revealed Deloitte, which is contracted by the government to run test and trace, is trying to sell its contact-tracing services to local councils, it is clearer than ever that [the company’s] time would be better spent improving the huge issues in the existing system.” 

More than 160,000 people have signed a petition by  campaign group Keep Our NHS Public calling for the NHS to run test and trace.

Petition-starter Dr Louise Irvine said she knew from experience how important an effective test-and-trace system is, as her father died from Covid-19 and two of her relatives were hospitalised.

“I’m appalled that the government has put ideology before people’s lives,“ Dr Irvine said.

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