Test and Trace should be the bedrock of a pandemic response. By identifying close contacts of people with confirmed Covid-19, it is possible to find people who are infectious before they pass on the virus. Once cases have been found, people need practical and financial support to be able to self-isolate. By doing this consistently, Covid outbreaks can be controlled.
But the UK Government’s outsourced Test and Trace system was a complete disaster. Private corporations with no relevant experience were handed billions of pounds of public money and failed to deliver a functional service, while their profits soared. There has also been no meaningful support for people self-isolating, meaning many people struggle to stay home and not go to work.
Now the provision of free lateral flow tests has been withdrawn and self-isolation requirements have been ditched all together. We have even seen corporations making workers come in when they are testing positive.
Another way forward is possible. Everyone should have access to free lateral flow tests. Test and Trace should be handed over to the NHS and local authorities. We need a well-resourced Test and Trace system that is run by health professionals, that can work quickly and effectively to identify contacts, and that provides real support to people self-isolating. If we get this right, we can drive down transmission and save lives.
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