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Hand over control of Covid testing to local councils, urges leader

Camden says it wants to 'build local walk-in testing centres'

17 September, 2020 — By Richard Osley

RESIDENTS unable to get a test are being told to isolate for five days as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.

This wait was last night (Wednesday) described as “hugely disruptive” for people, as Camden’s furious council leader demanded that control of testing is handed to local authorities to run. Councillor Georgia Gould said possible Covid patients should not be sent miles to a test centre.

She said: “We in local government have said all along that we stand ready to support the government’s testing regime locally – this offer still stands. It is important now that government learns the lessons of the past six months and puts local councils in control of testing capacity, allows us to build local walk-in testing centres that mean everyone can easily access testing, and uses the expertise and skills of our local public health and environmental health teams.”

She added: “We think local solutions are best because we in local government know our communities and we know how best to engage them. The government has so far refused to relinquish any control from the centre and this is the result.”

Cllr Gould said in the absence of a test the council was “having to advise anyone with Covid-19 symptoms to self-isolate and to keep trying to book a test during their first five days of being symptomatic.”

She added: “The problem too many people are facing is that if they are unable to get a test in that time period, they need to continue to isolate for a further five days as a precautionary measure. This is hugely disruptive for many people – including schoolchildren, parents, NHS workers, businesses and care workers who are having to stay at home. And it’s hugely unsettling for people who don’t know whether or not they’ve got Covid-19.”


National statistics suggest only around 2.5 per cent of tests are coming back positive, meaning people in theory should be able to get back to school and work quickly if they can get a quick swab check. The symptoms to look out for remain a cough or a fever, or a sudden loss of smell.

In a bid to reduce transmission, the government has now banned social gatherings of more than six people, although police say they do not want this to distract from knife crime work.

At Camden’s Covid-19 scrutiny committee on Tuesday, Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper said some members of other parties were involved in “political grand­standing” on the issue.

He said: “Some of the understanding of the system is not great. We have 240,000 tests that are being conducted every day – that’s as many as France, Italy and Spain combined. Obviously, we need to have testing capacity and the processing – the lab capacity – so we can keep up to that and remain the world’s leading testing system.”

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