The local operation began last month to support the national test and trace service
An update was presented to Central Bedfordshire Council’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee by its assistant director public health Celia Shohet.
“There’s a risk, in the event of a major second wave of COVID-19, particularly if the national service is overwhelmed, it could impact on our ability,” she warned.
“But we’re doing what we can to mitigate that and make sure we’ve got the right capacity in place.
“We’ve plans to increase that resourcing if necessary. And we’ve a number of staff who can support any door knocking activity required.
“The feedback and our success has been pretty good so far, although it’s not huge numbers yet.
“We’re learning from other areas, which have been doing this slightly longer, to develop and refine the offer.”
The national test and trace service aims to contact those who test positive for COVID-19 and identify anyone who may have been in close contact with them.
If the national team can’t make contact in 24 hours, their details will be passed to us and we will undertake that service, she said.
Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion wondered whether the council has the staffing to support the test and trace process, especially “if we saw an acute spike in cases”.
“What services switch off and redirect to test and trace?” he asked.
The assistant director public health replied: “For the telephone service that is mainly public health based.
“The response is across Bedford Borough Central Bedfordshire and MK, so we have some flexibility.
“Infection rates are different in each area. We have some resilience that way.
“Those door knocking that’s part of their job anyway. They’ve got excellent customer relations skills.
“It might be enforcement teams, or those from community safety who are out there already and some of the public protection teams.”
Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker asked whether the local test and trace was performing better than the national service.
“Of the ten cases we’ve dealt with in Central Bedfordshire, so far, eight have been contacted and that’s worked,” explained the assistant director public health.
“Unfortunately with two of them their numbers were incorrect. They would go on to the door knocking element.
“So it’s been reasonably successful. We aren’t that different to the national percentage.
“I don’t know whether they gave wrong numbers deliberately or if they were transcribed incorrectly.
“As far as I’m aware, we don’t have powers to enforce people to engage with test and trace.
“It’s more of an encouragement and understanding what the benefits of doing that would be.”
Councillor Versallion, who chairs the committee, said: “That’s very reassuring.
“If there are any problems you encounter, if and when things get bad this winter, you’ll share that with this committee.
“And if we can help please let us know, whether it’s resources or funding.”