Our proposal for mass testing and tracing in the SW is gaining traction. Time for Devon MPs and councils to act.
The proposal by Hilary Ackland, Claire Wright and myself that we need a regional strategy for Covid-19 in the South West has gained quite a bit of attention, but also some misunderstandings.
- We are NOT pressing for a regional release of the lockdown at this stage.
- What we ARE arguing is for a large-scale return to testing, tracing and monitored quarantining of those who are infectious and their contacts, as advocated by Exeter University’s infectious disease expert Dr Bharat Pankhania.
With an ambitious programme, this should be feasible in this area, since infection is estimated at only around 2 per cent of the population rather than the much higher levels estimated in other areas.
- This would need not only a lot more tests but also rapid expansion of testing and tracing teams beyond the Public Health team, using district Environmental Health staff, and recruiting many others.
Dangers of delay
Five weeks ago, Hilary, Claire and I with other colleagues were calling for the large-scale social distancing, but the Government was dragging its feet. We were criticised for not following the Government’s position, but it is now the view of virtually all informed opinion that the Government moved too late.
The danger is that something similar may be happening now over testing. Without a programme like the one Dr Pankhania is advocating, we are left simply waiting for a vaccine (next year?) – or risk the lockdown being lifted when we don’t know where the virus is, leading to a second wave with even more deaths.
I hope that Devon MPs and councils will see that a mass testing and tracing programme should be the local (and eventually national) priority and that all will use their influence to press forward on this.