Let us take over coronavirus testing, Greenwich Council leader demands

Social distancing banner in Maryon Park, Charlton
The council already conducts tests in care homes

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe is calling for the Westminster government to hand over the reins to coronavirus testing, citing “alarm and deep concern” after widespread reports of residents being directed to sites as far away as Wales and Leicester for testing.

Thorpe and his deputy, Denise Scott-McDonald, will move a motion calling for control of the testing system to be handed to the town hall at its full meeting next Wednesday.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that while he did not know of any other local authorities who were conducting their own testing, he said many were “desperate to” and would do so if they could get access to laboratories.

“What’s happening is affecting residents right across the borough and I hope next week we have a unanimous vote that sends a clear signal to the government about how unacceptable this is and gets us a positive solution that would improve things,” Thorpe said.

Greenwich already handles testing in care homes within the borough, the result of an agreement with the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust.

In the motion, Thorpe and Scott-McDonald cite “alarm and deep concern at the ongoing failures of the national test, track and trace system”, which is being run by the private company Serco.

“Council believes that local residents are being badly let down by these repeated failures and expresses concern that this will lead to the further spread of coronavirus,” the motion states.

The pair call on the government to “hand control of the testing system to the council with immediate effect”.

There are concerns that testing capacity in London has been overwhelmed with schools and universities returning this month.

A surge in demand for tests has led to local shortages, with many people reporting issues with securing online bookings and being directed to test sites hundreds of miles away.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Tuesday the government was “working around the clock to make sure everyone who needs a test can get a test”.


LDRS logoLachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich and Bexley. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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