Bedford needs a clear coronavirus plan not “doomsayers” looking to “apportion blame” over the failed NHS ‘Track and Trace’ app, according to the leader of Bedford Conservatives.
Cllr Graeme Coombes has urged local health bosses to instead focus on creating a plan for how new powers recently granted to local authorities will protect Bedfordians.
These new powers allow local authorities to shut public spaces and cancel events, so they can respond quickly to any local outbreak.
His comments come after Bedford Borough’s Liberal Democrats ‘slammed’ the government for what they called “ludicrous and misleading claims” over its failed contact tracing app.
The government claimed the app was “world beating” when it was launched in May.
At a meeting of the Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting last week, councillors were told how data for the app hadn’t been shared until recently.
Committee members heard that postcode-specific data had only just been made available to local agencies, which they say hindered the ability of those agencies to tackle local outbreaks.
Speaking about the app, Bedford Borough Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Cllr Dean Crofts said: “The government wasted three months and millions of pounds on it.”
But Cllr Coombes said now is not the time for parties to try and score political points.
“What is now needed is a clear plan of how these new powers might be used effectively here in Bedford Borough to contain any local COVID outbreak, rather than doomsayers looking for problems with ‘Track and Trace’ and then seeking to apportion blame,” he said.
Cllr Coombes also added that any ‘Track and Trace’ system can only be as good as the data it collects.
“Track and Trace can only be effective if the responses from those testing positive for Coronavirus give full details on other people that they have been in contact with, so that they can then be traced.
“Bedford’s Health Scrutiny Committee heard this week that the current reporting rate is only 70% and this needs to be much higher.”
However, local Lib Dems seem to suggest that the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic runs deeper than problems with ‘track and trace’.
“Listening to local professionals at the sharp end of this system is a reminder that they’ve been let down badly by a government obsessed with spin and self-promotion,” said Cllr Crofts.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has admitted that “we knew from the start that we would need to test and learn as we developed this new technology.”
The Government is now said to be working with Apple and Google to develop an app to support ‘track and trace’. It is due to be ready for the winter.