- NHS Pressure Group Slams UK Government Over 'Disaster' COVID-19 Contact Tracing Service
NHS Pressure Group Slams UK Government Over 'Disaster' COVID-19 Contact Tracing Service
The UK government's COVID-19 contact tracing service has been a "disaster," Dr. John Puntis, co-chair of the Keep Our NHS Public pressure group told Sputnik, adding that the government's insistence on calling the initiative NHS Test and Trace, when in fact the service has been outsourced to private contractors, is misleading
MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 01st October, 2020) The UK government's COVID-19 contact tracing service has been a "disaster," Dr. John Puntis, co-chair of the Keep Our NHS Public pressure group told Sputnik, adding that the government's insistence on calling the initiative NHS Test and Trace, when in fact the service has been outsourced to private contractors, is misleading.
Ministers launched the NHS Test and Trace service, an outsourced initiative provided to the National Health Service in England, over the summer and the government's contact tracing mobile app was released in England and Wales on September 24. Despite the project's launch, residents have complained about the low availability of tests, with some people being asked by the service to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for the coronavirus disease.
"I think it is a disaster. Of course, it is not really the NHS because it has been contracted out to private companies. I think it clearly doesn't work and that hasn't been accepted," Puntis remarked.
Private sector giant Serco initially received a contract worth 108 million Pounds ($139 million) to run the government's contact tracing service, and this sum is expected to continue to rise should the initiative be required for a prolonged period.
According to Puntis, the government's insistence on calling the project NHS Test and Trace is misleading.
"I think it is misleading and I think whenever people say it is NHS Test and Trace, the response ought to be well actually it is not NHS, it has been outsourced to private companies. Not only that, the NHS structures that could have dealt with this have been deliberately bypassed," the NHS pressure group co-chair said.
Boris Johnson's government has faced sustained criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from its slow response to the initial outbreak in China to its contradictory social distancing measures.
In August, the government launched its Eat Out to Help Out scheme, offering UK residents vouchers to visit embattled restaurants and pubs that had been gravely impacted by the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, amid a rapid surge in new cases in the UK in September, ministers introduced a 22:00 (21:00 GMT) curfew for pubs and restaurants, and appear to have placed the blame for the rise in new positive tests on people attending these establishments.
"I think the problem now is that the government and the prime minister are, in a sense, blaming the British people for what's gone wrong and what's now happening with the rates of infection. But people were allowed and encouraged to go back to pubs and restaurants, actively encouraged to go back," Puntis said.
The Keep Our NHS Public co-chair said that he would like to see a public inquiry into the government's handling of the coronavirus disease pandemic, adding that ministers were spreading "misinformation" about the country's response to the health crisis.
"There's a whole barrage of misinformation that comes out, such as Test and Trace is world-beating, that a 'protective ring' was thrown around care homes, when actually there were 20,000 deaths in care homes. That we were prepared is perhaps the biggest bit of misinformation. So there has to be, I think, an honest reappraisal of what's gone on," Puntis remarked.
The United Kingdom is currently in the midst of its second COVID-19 wave, as the daily number of new cases has risen from below 1,000 in July to above 7,000 this week. On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Social Care registered 7,108 new positive tests, raising the country's case total to 453,264.