Local authorities in England are to receive a share of a £300 million fund to support test and trace services in local communities and to develop action plans aimed at reducing the spread of the virus in their area.
The package, announced last Friday (22 May), will aid the national rollout of the test and trace service by ‘identifying and containing potential outbreaks’ in workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools among other settings, the Government has said.
They will also need to ensure ‘testing capacity is deployed effectively to high-risk locations’.
‘Local authorities will be vital in the effort to contain Covid-19 at a community level,’ the Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said.
The national effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic ‘will only be effective as a result of local authorities, working hand in hand with Public Health England and contact tracers,’ to focus on containment, she added.
The work, which will begin ‘immediately’, will be led by local authority leaders and public health directors in partnership with local GP practices and hospitals and community institutions, including schools and charities.
Data related to how the virus spreads will also be shared with local authorities through the Joint Biosecurity Centre, to inform local outbreak planning.
The Government is currently trialing a track and trace app in the Isle of Wight – soon to be rolled out nationally.
It is not yet clear how the funding, which is ring-fenced for these uses, will be distributed among local authorities.
The Government announcement also included the introduction of a new National Local Government Advisory Board, which will ‘work with the test and trace service’ and ‘share best practice between communities across the country’.
Eleven volunteer local authorities, representing both rural and urban areas, will share lessons with others across the UK during the initial stages.
National test and trace adviser and chief executive of Leeds City Council Tom Riordan said: ‘It is essential that communities and local authorities are at the heart of our plans to roll out test and trace.
‘Their work to respond to the virus has been exemplary, demonstrating how people across the country have come together to respond to the virus.
‘As we move forward with our plans to trace every case of the virus, and contact those at risk, we will need to continue to work together and tailor support at a local level.’
The 11 local authorities that will initially share best practice with others are:
- Tameside – as the lead authority for Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authority
- Warwickshire – Coventry and Solihull connecting to West Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority
- Leeds – as the lead authority for the Leeds City Region
- London – Camden lead in collaboration with Hackney, Barnet and Newham
- Devon – with Cornwall
- Newcastle – with Northumberland and North Tyneside as lead authority for North of Tyne Mayoral Combined Authority
- Middlesbrough – with Redcar and Cleveland as lead authority for Tees Valley Mayoral Combined Authority
- Norfolk – with Norwich and districts Breckland, Broadland, Great Yarmouth King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk and South Norfolk
- Leicestershire – and Leicester with Rutland
- Cheshire West and Chester – with councils within Cheshire local resilience forum