Andy Burnham calls for testing priority to be given to Covid hotspots

16 September 2020, 16:11

Andy Burnham made the statements during his virtual press conference
Andy Burnham made the statements during his virtual press conference. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said those with a postcode in areas with the highest rates of coronavirus should be given priority when booking a coronavirus test.

Speaking during his weekly online press conference, Andy Burnham said "we do need the Government to prioritise areas with the highest numbers of cases for bookings through the national system."

He said tests had still been taking place in Greater Manchester this week but probably at a reduced capacity and there was increased demand.

His comments come after the government has announced it will be reviewing the criteria for who can book a Covid-19 test in the wake of an LBC investigation.

The probe, exclusively conducted by LBC, found there were no tests available for the top 10 coronavirus hotspots in England.

But now an extended investigation has found only two of the 48 Covid-19 hotspots in England had tests available for people trying to book via the government website on Wednesday.

Only the Wirral (29th on the watchlist) and neighbouring Liverpool (33rd) had tests available.

While the government insists that there are thousands of tests being carried out in these areas, LBC's investigation exposes the difficulties facing people trying to book one.

Government sources said they were working hard to increase lab capacity but that this could take weeks.

Mr Burnham said: "On testing, we do need the Government to prioritise areas with the highest numbers of cases for bookings through the national system."

Mr Burnham added: "What we have here are systems which are not sufficiently attuned to the needs of local communities, systems that don't prioritise areas of greatest need for testing to available capacity."

He also said around 110 schools in the area had reported coronavirus cases.

Andy Burnham said: "It clearly is disrupting the return to schools but, nevertheless, it was never going to be plain sailing, I don't think.

"I think the issue to put to the Prime Minister is, given that we knew the return of schools would put more pressure on the system, why wasn't more done?"

He added: "This is causing real distress for families but also for schools as well, so it needs to be fixed and fixed urgently."

Mr Burnham also said police community support officers and fire staff would be called on to help with contact tracing as the national Test and Trace system was failing to reach 46 per cent of named contacts in the area.

He said: "Test, trace and isolate is not working well enough for Greater Manchester at the moment and we have only a small number of weeks to fix it before we go into the really tough time which lies ahead in the autumn and into the winter."

Mr Burnham added: "We have agreements from Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to mobilise a number of police community support officers and fire safety staff to focus their efforts on contacting the contacts that are currently not being reached in Greater Manchester by the national system."

He also called on businesses to give employees permission and financial support to self-isolate if asked to do so by the NHS Test and Trace system and said a self-isolation support service was being set up by the Greater Manchester Growth Company.