Alerts for local coronavirus outbreaks are months away – when will this farce end?

Test, track, trace and isolate is a standard approach to dealing with epidemics.

An example of how it works is currently being dramatised in the BBC 1’s “the Salisbury poisonings”. Wiltshire’s Public Health Officer responded immediately and effectively.

Setting aside the matter of whether or not an emergency plan should have been in place, the Government has had since, shall we be generous and say the beginning of March, to set up a national system that apparently won’t be fully operational until August/September. How long does it take Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings to “Re-invent the Wheel”?

What was wrong with starting with the local system based on local Public Health Officers – not invented here – not fully under Whitehall control? When will this farce end? – Owl

“The government unit designed to stamp out local outbreaks of coronavirus will not be fully operational until the end of summer, its head has said.”

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor 
The Joint Biosecurity Centre, launched by Boris Johnson a month ago, says it will not be able to track outbreaks street-by-street for months, potentially slowing plans to ease lockdown by replacing national restrictions with “whack-a-mole” tactics.

Clare Gardiner, its director-general, told MPs that the centre’s aim was to “paint as clear a picture as possible of what happens locally and nationally” but was only providing data on national and local authority level at present.

The centre was announced as part of No 10’s first phase of lockdown easing but amid confusion over its role has become a sub-division of the NHS test and trace service.

The centre was also billed as the guardian of the national coronavirus alert level, which is still at level four — signifying a high level of transmission — weeks after the government said it was “transitioning” down to three.

Dr Gardiner told the housing, communities and local government committee that the alert level was based on data such as confirmed cases, contact tracing figures and virus modelling.

Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is said to have ruled against a reduction in the alert level but ministers have eased lockdown anyway.

As cases fall, government science advisers say the key to preventing a second wave will be spotting clusters of cases and eliminating them through aggressive testing and control measures, such as shutting schools and offices at the centre of local outbreaks.

“We’d like to be in the position where we can provide really timely local level data to decision-makers to help them make the right decisions to contain outbreaks. We’d like to be in a position to provide really early warning indicators on identification of clusters at a local level and we’d like to be able to provide feedback to the local level to give an assessment on how effective individual interventions have or have not been,” Dr Gardiner said.

The centre aims to break down real-time data on outbreaks to areas with populations of 1,500. However, Dr Gardiner said: “The expectation is that we will reach full operating capability towards the end of the summer. The capability that we’re trying to build is quite complex, and it will take time.”

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