On 7th August 2020, Independent SAGE recommended the following steps for improving contact tracing in England:
- The central call centre system should be scrapped and contracts with SERCO and others cancelled. On 23rd August the government will decide whether to extend the current deal worth £108 million up to a maximum of £410 million. Budgets should be shifted so contact tracers are recruited and trained by local authority public health teams.
- The Deloitte testing contract for community tests in car parks should be ended.
- Home testing should be ended and every person in England should have access to a test within a short distance from where they live. Local public health and primary care doctors should get real time information about test results and patient details.
- A national framework should be agreed whereby local authorities can make their own decisions about new community restrictions, and set up community centres for quarantine and support of mild cases who cannot isolate effectively at home.
- Central government should focus on a) strategic guidance based on evidence, b) financial support to local authorities, and c) financial support guaranteed to all cases and contacts (not just those employed on PAYE) to offset wage losses.
If we don’t take isolation seriously our economy will spiral downwards. We should have had an effective isolation policy in February, with better pandemic planning. Not to have one six months later is nothing short of public health malpractice.