The rise in Covid cases over the last three days is deeply worrying – but what’s even more worrying are the numbers of constituents contacting me to say they can’t get a test, either at a centre or at home.
Universities are set to return imminently putting even more young people at risk with the potential for the virus to then spread further into the community.
This is why we need a testing programme that works – and ours doesn’t.
A number of schools have already closed because of outbreaks but the guidance is patchy over what a school should do if a pupil displays symptoms.
We need a test and trace system that finds cases, tests them quickly, traces and properly supports people to isolate.
Where a test is available, people are being asked to travel more than 100 miles. This is impractical and leading to further transmission. For many people, such as the 20% of home care workers who are on zero hours contracts, taking a 100 mile round trip for a test simply isn’t feasible.
In terms of tracing, the figures are shocking.
In Bolton only 57% of none complex cases are being reached.
In Oldham only 50% of none complex cases have been reached; Blackburn only 47% non-complex reached; Bradford only 43% non-complex cases reached.
What about this is ‘world beating’?
The testing programme is shambolic with laboratories unable to cope.
Did it not occur to the government, that with 8.8 million pupils returning to school, with thousands following the Prime Minister’s instruction to return to the office and young people about to head to university that more capacity would be needed in the testing system at this time of year?
On Monday it was reported there were no tests in London.
One of my constituents was told to travel from Lancaster to Oldham for a test.
People in Kent were asked to travel to Cardiff.
In Denton they were advised to visit Llandudno.
In Leicester someone was advised to head north 245 miles to Edinburgh.
But in Devon, helpfully people were told they only need travel 20 miles.
Unfortunately, that involved crossing the sea to get to Swansea.
The testing regime has been a fiasco in recent days and I have written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to highlight my deep concerns.
This latest crisis has come about because the government once again didn’t listen to the experts, but instead outsourced testing and tracing to firms like Deloitte, Serco and G4S – firms with no experience in this field.
It’s clear that NHS labs and local public health teams would be better placed to lead this work.
In the last six months we have had muddled messages, failed testing and ineffective contact tracing. Winter is coming. The government needs to get a grip.