PRESSURE is mounting on the Government to include more local expertise in its test and trace system, with Oxford City Council taking up the clarion call.

The council agreed at a meeting on Monday night to call for ‘the current, failed system’ to be changed, by calling on the county’s director of public health to organise more testing and tracing on a local level.

It also plans to ask for Oxford’s MPs to support the call as well.

Louise Upton, who proposed the plan, said: “Until we have a vaccine, the only way we can prevent Covid is keeping infected people away from non-infected people.

“We are not doing well on this in the UK.”

The cabinet member for a safer, healthy Oxford added: “What should we be doing about this?

“What a sensible Government would have done from the start is plan a test and trace system which made use of the knowledge and experience local public health, local GPs had.”

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Oxfordshire did set up a local test and trace system in October, in which local council workers are contacting people who have not been reached by the national system to tell them they have been near someone infected by the coronavirus.

The motion debated at the meeting suggested the local system should be extended to cover all tracing, and said this would eliminate private companies’ part in it, which had ‘squandered billions of pounds of public money’.

There was cross-party support for the calls for a more locally based test and trace system.

Green group leader Craig Simmons said the local system would be more accountable than the private system, and allow for better integration with existing services.

And Lib Dem leader Andrew Gant also ‘fully applauded’ the proposals.

Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, a Labour councillor who works as an NHS doctor, said health service workers had the ‘trust of the vulnerable, the elderly’, but said this had been ‘burnt’ by the Govenrment ‘handing over contracts to their mates down the pub, by rewarding a failing test and trace system to the tune of £12bn whilst our local add on teams have been left to trace the most vulnerable’.

She added people would be less likely to trust ‘an unrecognised remote phone call or an app beeping that you need to isolate’.

The council’s call for more local involvement in test and trace follows on the heels of calls by a campaign group called ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ for the same.

They spoke at a meeting of Oxfordshire's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee last week.

In the six weeks since it started operating, Oxfordshire's local tracing scheme has reached 500 people who slipped through the net of national test and trace.

The local scheme is run in collaboration between Oxfordshire County Council's public health team, and the six surrounding district councils.

Local test and trace workers call and text people who have been in contact with someone infected by coronavirus to tell them to isolate.

If they cannot reach them, then a 'boots on the ground' team will knock on their door to give them the message.

Dr Adam Briggs, Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health Consultant, said: “The success of the team over the past six weeks has been a key contribution to the recent fall in COVID cases we’ve seen in the county. It is one of a number of local systems we have in place to help manage the virus, including expanded testing capacity and our COVID-secure team who are working with businesses across the county to ensure they are following the guidance.

“The 500 local residents we have reached may not otherwise have been contacted and, without our local contact tracing team, they and their contacts may have gone on to spread the virus during October and November."