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Health campaigners to protest against possible Serco contract renewal for test-and-trace system

PUBLIC health campaigners across England will on Tuesday call on the government not to renew contracts with private company Serco for the test-and-trace system.

Protesters are expected outside Downing Street in London at 8.30am dressed as test-and-trace supremo Dido Harding and Serco CEO Rupert Soames, while another protester plans to dress as Health Secretary Matt Hancock with blood on his hands.

Campaigners and local politicians outside County Hall in New Road, Oxford at 11am will tear up a giant “contract.”

Dozens more actions co-ordinated by We Own It will take place.

Serco has held contracts for contact tracing since May 2020 but has repeatedly failed to deliver on its duties.

The system has reached just 81 per cent of close contacts, those who had tested positive for Covid-19, and asked them to self-isolate since the programme began, according to the latest government statistics.

This compares with nearly 98 per cent for local public health teams.

Serco’s contract is set to end on May 17, and the government must decide whether to renew it before next week.

We Own It campaigns officer Pascale Robinson said: “Even with vaccines being rolled out, effective test and trace is still going to be absolutely vital to halt the spread of Covid-19 in our communities and stop new and more deadly variants from emerging.

“Time and time again Serco has proven utterly incapable of delivering an effective system and the company’s failure has put countless lives needlessly at risk.

“The government must now face reality. Local public health teams have consistently shown they can deliver contact tracing far more effectively.

“Even the government has shown signs of admitting this now, having begun pilots for more local contact tracing, but they are being far too slow.”

Ms Robinson called for local public health teams to be given “proper” funding and put in charge of the whole system.

Today two former Serco bosses were cleared of hiding £12 million in profits from the firm’s electronic tagging contracts with the government after the Serious Fraud Office dropped charges against them.

Nicholas Woods and Simon Marshall had been on trial, accused of fraud against the Ministry of Justice between 2011 and 2013 regarding about 1.3 million documents.

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