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Norfolk sets up own contact tracing scheme after problems with national one

PUBLISHED: 09:09 04 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:40 04 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

Norfolk is launching its own version of the test-and-trace programme, after the coronavirus outbreak at Banham Poultry exposed shortcomings in the national scheme.

As cases spread among poultry workers at the meat factory in Attleborough from August 21, local public health officials were left relying on the national contact tracing programme to find people who had spent time with the 104 infected workers.

But as of Tuesday only half of those contacts had been traced.

It comes as the national tracing system sunk to its worst performance ever, reaching just 70pc of contacts.

By contrast, local systems set up by other councils are reaching 97pc of people.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman described the national system as having “real issues” and said councils should be put in charge.

Norfolk County Council has now posted several job adverts on LinkedIn for the scheme.

The NHS test and trace system has not reached almost a third of people. Picture: PA/Danny LawsonThe NHS test and trace system has not reached almost a third of people. Picture: PA/Danny Lawson

The job adverts read: “As part of our Local Outbreak Control Strategic Plan, we are opening a new service focused on protecting the health of people of Norfolk to prevent the spread of Covid-19 through early identification of outbreaks and containing and suppressing the spread of outbreaks through proactive management.

It adds: “You will track daily and weekly progress for the team against target goals including cases contacted successfully, contacts tracked and referred, the handoff to others where contact cannot be made, and patients and contacts referred to social support systems.”

Job adverts include contact tracers, public health officials and project managers.

Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photograph: PA.Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photograph: PA.

See also: Essex contact tracers help Norfolk with Banham Poultry outbreak

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In hotspot areas, councils have already set up their own systems which perform better than the national one, according to NHS data.

For cases handled by local health protection teams, 97.3pc of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to August 26.

By contrast, for those cases handled either online or by call centres, 59.8pc of close contacts have been reached and asked to self-isolate.

Baroness Dido Harding, interim chairwoman of the new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP), defended the Test and Trace programme.

She told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “We offer more people tests than any other European country and we reach 80% of all contacts who we have information for.”

•Volunteers help with Banham outbreak

Meanwhile, an email from Voluntary Norfolk this week said they needed people to work in Great Yarmouth, Norwich, Attleborough, Thetford and Dereham to help with the Banham outbreak.

It said: “We are urgently looking for volunteers that are willing to work alongside Public Health staff at local incident response centres.

“The volunteers will work in pairs and go house to house in affected areas or attend specific addresses in order to distribute information leaflets and/or home test kits.

“They may also be required to collect completed test kits later in the day and return them to the incident response center and/or book appointments at local Covid-19 testing centers.”

They said PPE would be provided.


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