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Essex contact tracers help Norfolk with Banham Poultry outbreak

PUBLISHED: 16:31 03 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:31 03 September 2020

Just over half of contacts from Banham Poultry workers have been tracked, leading to criticism of the national test and trace system. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Just over half of contacts from Banham Poultry workers have been tracked, leading to criticism of the national test and trace system. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Contact tracers from Essex are starting work to help public health officials find the hundreds of contacts of Banham Poultry workers caught up in the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes as a Norfolk MP called on the government to put the national test and trace system in the hands of local councils, rather than have it centralised in London.

The outbreak at the Attleborough poultry factory has highlighted problems with the national test and trace programme, after it emerged that only half of people who had been in contact with the infected workers had been tracked.

More than 100 Banham Poultry staff tested positive and all workers are being tested.

But the test and trace system is run nationally, meaning public health officials in Norfolk are reliant on it passing them information.

In other areas of the country, including Essex, councils have introduced their own system.

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBanham Poultry in Attleborough, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A council spokesman said on Thursday that Essex and Southend Contact Tracing Service, which was set up by Essex County Council in July, was now helping to find the remaining 50pc from the Banham Poultry outbreak.

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Figures show that local systems have been more effective, with 95pc of cases reached by local-run teams in the week up to August 19, compared with 75pc nationally.

Mid Norfolk Conservative MP George Freeman called on Norfolk County Council to follow suit.

Mid Norfolk Conservative MP George Freeman called for a local track and trace system to be set up in Norfolk. Photo: Uk ParlimentMid Norfolk Conservative MP George Freeman called for a local track and trace system to be set up in Norfolk. Photo: Uk Parliment

He said the outbreak had “highlighted real issues with the track and trace system being run centrally from London”.

“Tracing factory staff in our food processing sector - often low paid overseas agency staff living in hostels cheek-by-jowel with workers in other plants - needs local knowledge,” he said.

“To prevent infection spreading to other factories and towns we needed to trace, test and track all 800 Banham staff and their close contacts much more quickly.”

He said it would be far more effective to have local council staff and volunteers knocking on doors rather than relying on emails or a phone app.

Dr Louise Smith said on Tuesday the council would be keen to run a local track and trace.

But a council spokesman said this needed to be agreed with other agencies before anything could happen.


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