The UK’s programme to control the spread of coronavirus by tracking who infected people have been in contact with will not be fully operational at local levels until the end of June, a Labour MP has claimed.
Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, said the programme’s head Dido Harding admitted on a call with MPs that councils do not have to complete an outbreak control plan until the end of June, despite the programme launching on Thursday.
Mr Bradshaw’s constituency is in Devon, which is one of the pilot areas for the scheme. He said he had also been told by the local authority that the deadline for the plan was at the end of June.
He said: “I simply asked her to clarify the timing on the rollout and I told her what Devon had told me – and she confirmed that, yes, the local operational rollout of this would not happen until the end of June.
“I wasn’t surprised by that because it was what Devon had told me but it is in complete variance with what Boris Johnson promised Keir Starmer at PMQs last week when he promised a world-beating test, trace and isolate system would be operational by Monday.
“And of course yesterday in a great flurry Matt Hancock announced this and launched it today. And it does seem rather worrying to me that the Government keeps launching things or announcing things that either aren’t ready or it cannot deliver on.
“One can’t help but suspect that the reason they have chosen to do this in the last 24 to 48 hours is to try to divert attention away from Dominic Cummings.”
The contact tracing scheme was launched on Thursday, with 25,000 tracers hired to call people who have tested positive for the virus and work out who they have made contact with.
The tracers then contact those people and ask them to self-isolate for 14 days. No fines will initially be given to people who do not do as the contact tracers asked.
Health secretary Matt Hancock called on people to do their “civic duty” by complying with the programme.
Government advisers have said that effective contact tracing is key to easing the UK’s coronavirus lockdown safely because it helps health authorities understand the spread of the virus more accurately.
Schools, open-air markets and car showrooms are set to reopen from June 1, while all non-essential shops will be allowed to begin trading again from June 15, Boris Johnson announced this week.