Kevan Jones, Member of Parliament for North Durham has today responded to the Government’s announcement that the North East will be placed in Tier 3 once the lockdown ends next week.
Kevan’s full statement is available below.
Yesterday the Government announced that the North East will be placed in Tier 3 when the lockdown ends next week.
As part of this decision, the Government also announced that those areas in Tier 3 will be provided with extra mass lateral-flow testing as has been carried out in Liverpool, although guidance on how this will work will not be published until at least next week.
The Government has also said that the onus will be on local councils to put a plan forward for such testing to take place.
Having spoken to County Durham’s Director of Public Health, she has confirmed that they have not received any information on how this system will work. There are also concerns about how effective it will be at driving down instances of the virus with no hard evidence having been produced. This was highlighted in the interview today on Talk Radio, which can be found here.
It would appear that the Government have offered this to all Tier 3 areas without any idea of how such a huge logistical task would be delivered. In Liverpool, it relied heavily on the use of the army but the Defence Secretary told the Defence Committee, of which I am a member, that they would not be able to deliver the same level of support across the entire Country.
There has been rightly much concern about testing in the nation’s care homes. Earlier this month the Government asked local Directors of Public Health to draw up local plans for weekly testing in care homes which I understand they were working on. It has come as a surprise to many of them that the Government have now written directly to care homes to arrange for testing to be centrally-delivered without any involvement at all from local Directors of Public Health. How the data from these tests will be shared with local authorities remains unclear, as does how this will be funded.
The national centralised approach to testing and tracing continues to be a shambles with this week under 60% of contacts contacted, which is a marked contrast to local testing contact rates in County Durham of over 95%.
The Government claims to be working in partnership with local Directors of Public Health, but in practice, many of their concerns are being ignored, while the Government continue to pursue its centrally-driven strategy.
If we are to drive down the infection rates of the virus, local test and tracing with the funding needed has proven to be far more effective. The Government now need to change its strategy, and admit that their centralised approach is not working.
With no clear explanation of how the North East will get out of Tier 3 restrictions and a continuation of a national test and trace strategy that is not working, I will not be supporting the Government’s measures on Tuesday and will be voting against them.