Government now committed to publish test and trace agreement with police following Liberal Democrats sustained pressure in Parliament - but latest figures for effectiveness are a cause for alarm

October 22, 2020 8:05 PM

Cllr Dr Aidan KingLiberal Democrats Peer Paul Scriven has secured a commitment from Health Minister Lord Bethell to publish the agreement between the Government and police chiefs over the decision to share test and trace data.

This follows the Health Secretary's refusal to make the Memorandum of Understanding public when pressed in the House of Commons by Liberal Democrats Health and Care Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP

Dr Aidan King, a Liberal Democrats councillor in Newcastle welcomed the shift in Government policy following the persistence of his colleagues in Parliament. He said

"An effective test, trace and isolate system to keep people safe will only work if the public have faith in it and this means the Government must be open and honest about how it uses people's data.

"It is absolutely crucial that the Government publishes its Memorandum of Understanding with police chiefs on sharing of Test and Trace data in full, otherwise they risk further undermining public trust in the system and discouraging people from getting tested.

"I'm glad to have secured this commitment from the Minister, but he must now make sure the document is published for public scrutiny as soon as possible. The Liberal Democrats are clear that transparency over the use of personal data is essential to build public confidence in Test and Trace."

But the Test and Trace system has had its lowest weekly figure since the scheme began, with less than 60% of people in England reached in the week ending 14 October.

Dr King said : "We already knew that national contact tracing is an utter disaster - but it has now reached rock bottom. This is hugely alarming and concerning. The latest figures show the test and trace system has had the lowest weekly figure of contacts traced since the scheme began back in March, not to mention the fact they're being forced to draft in untrained staff to cope with the level of rising cases.

"How can the Health Secretary allow this to happen on his watch? The test, trace and isolate system is crucial for not only slowing the spread of this virus, but for us to have any hope of ever getting out of these restrictions.

"The Health Secretary must answer to Parliament urgently to explain what this Government will do to overhaul their shambolic test, trace and isolate system.

"Tests need to be turned around in 24 hours, tracing needs to be led by experts in local authorities, and people need more practical and financial support to isolate. Otherwise, this virus will continue to threaten lives and livelihoods as a direct result of this Government's incompetence."