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Local coronavirus test and trace system launches in Essex

1st July 2020
Posted by Johnny Jenkins

Essex County Council (ECC) is proud to announce that this week they have launched their local contact tracing service. This service has been launched in partnership with Southend Borough Council.

The Essex and Southend Contact Tracing Service is one of the first local systems launched by any authority areas in the country. However, both Essex and Southend’s public health chiefs have warned vigilance is still needed.

Director for Public Health at Essex County Council, Dr Mike Gogarty said:

“We are very proud to launch our local track and trace system but we aren’t out of the woods yet and I want to make it clear that we should all be doing everything we can to limit further spread of infection.

“This means sticking to the current social distancing advice at 2m wherever possible, self-isolating when informed to do so, strictly keeping to ‘bubbles’, washing hands regularly and maintaining everyone’s hard work over the past three months.”

At the end of May, the Department of Health and Social Care (DoHSC) launched the national NHS Test & Trace system, as part of this it was announced that local contact systems would be set up by Local Authorities. ECC received £5.78m from the DoHSC to deliver the local contact tracing service.

The local contact service will be responsible for identifying, containing and reducing the spread of Covid-19 at the local level. Local contact services will be responsible for “complex cases”. So, the service will support contact tracing for schools, care homes, work places and vulnerable groups.

The local service will use testing data from Public Health England (PHE) to track and trace known connections of positive cases, and provide them with advice and guidance. All individuals who have been in close contact with a known positive case will be asked to isolate at home for a period of 14 days. This generally means that if people have maintained the ideal two meters distance they will not need to self-isolate. However for those that have been within one to two meters of a positive case, self-isolation may be required.

ECC and SBC have commissioned Provide CIC to deliver the contract tracing service, who will work alongside specialist Public Health colleagues in both organisations, as well as Environmental  Health Officers in City and District councils.

John Niland, Group Chief Executiveof Provide CIC said:

“To effectively deliver the contract tracing service, a new Microsoft Dynamics programme will be used to provide case management and information sharing in a compliant way between partners. This will enable the creation, triage and action of complex cases passed to both local authorities from the national Test and Trace system.

“This system is only being used in a handful of localities at this early stage and we are proud to be working with the local authority and partners on something that will no doubt be invaluable in reducing cases of Covid-19 in Essex, Southend and beyond.”

Alongside the contract tracing system both councils are finalising their own outbreak control plans, working with regional Public Health England colleagues, local NHS and other stakeholders. The outbreak control plan, as well as including information around the contract tracing system, will include processes and plans for identifying and containing potential outbreaks. The plan will be published once  approved by the Local Outbreak Engagement board, made up of Public Health specialists and local elected members.

Leader of Essex County Council, Cllr David Finch said:

“The launch of The Essex and Southend Contact Tracing Service signifies a united front by us and our partners in the fight against Covid-19 and marks the next phase in keeping our residents safe during these unprecedented times.

“However, we cannot be complacent. We have seen further spikes of infection in other countries and we must do all we can to prevent this here. While the local test and trace system is certainly welcomed, it is not the only solution to preventing further infection. I would therefore implore residents to continue following the guidance in terms of social distancing, hygiene and contact with others, this is crucial in ensuring the rate of infection does not increase further.”

Dorothy Gregson, Deputy Regional Director, PHE East of England said:

“Our local partners are crucial to the COVID public health response and we value their local knowledge and commitment to working with us to look after all of our communities and prevent further spread of this virus. The team at Essex and Southend have formed a strong alliance to tackle COVID on a local level and we support them in their efforts as they launch their test and trace service and local outbreak plans.”