Covid-19 carriers 'aren't giving contacts to Test and Trace over fears of financial difficulty'

7 August 2020, 13:17

Andy Burnham has called on the Government to pay the wages of people being told to self-isolate
Andy Burnham has called on the Government to pay the wages of people being told to self-isolate. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

People in Greater Manchester aren't giving Test and Trace contacts of their friends and family over fears of putting them into financial difficulty, Andy Burnham has said.

The region's mayor said those who are asked to self-isolate should be paid to ease fears over money to encourage people to comply with the scheme.

Mr Burnham said worries about taking 14 days off work, knowing they will not be paid or be at risk of losing their job, are contributing to a low 52% of people being contacted by the Test and Trace system.

He told LBC: "There are many people in some of our poorer communities who know that they cannot agree to a request to self isolate for 14 days because they won't be paid or worse - they fear losing their job.

"I'm talking about people on zero hours contracts, people who are self-employed, and even people who have access to statutory sick pay which is only £95 a week.

"This is at the heart of why this system is not working."

He said NHS Test and Trace will not work properly until the issue is addressed, and expressed support for the idea of treating self-isolation akin to jury duty.

Mr Burnham also called on the Government pass on contacts to the local authority from national Test and Trace callers to local teams who can track down the right people to knock on their homes.

"Where we do contact tracing we have a 98% success rate so we've got the teams to do it - the Government needs to put more money in though to get more tracers on the ground," he added.

Responding to Mr Burnham's comments, a Government spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working, with over 2.6 million people tested and more than 218,000 people prevented from unknowingly spreading the virus.

"Every day local authorities receive test, case and contact tracing data, with further data being shared with local Directors of Public Health, to support with their outbreak management responsibilities.

“Our priority is to curb the spread of this virus and save lives. Local action to tackle outbreaks is crucial, which is why we are working so closely with all local authorities, including Manchester, to provide additional support where needed.”

The mayor of Greater Manchester has warned about a low number of people engaging with Test and Trace
The mayor of Greater Manchester has warned about a low number of people engaging with Test and Trace. Picture: PA Images

The Greater Manchester mayor is also facing pressure to call for the easing of local lockdown measures in certain boroughs, but he said the current rules need to be maintained due to increases infections.

He told BBC Radio 4: "Eight out of 10 have recorded a further increase this week so I think it reinforces that this was the right decision, as difficult as it was," he said.

Yesterday afternoon, Conservative MPs in Greater Manchester sparked a political row by sending a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock which attacked Andy Burnham for a "dangerous" approach to local lockdowns.

Mr Burnham responded to the letter late on Thursday evening, hitting back against what he labelled the "fairly low" behaviour of the group.

"In choosing to write to me in the way that you have, it is clear you all disagree with your own Government's decision but do not have the courage to say so," he wrote.

"Instead, you a clearly seeking to deflect blame and politicise the issue. I would consider this fairly low behaviour at any time.

"But in the middle of a global pandemic, when I am trying to work across party lines and provide cross-party support to your Government for the difficult decisions it is having to take, it is beneath contempt."

The mayor received support for his response from local Liberal Democrat groups, with the party in Rochdale labelling the letter from Conservative MPs a "cheap shot" and praising Mr Burnham for a "remarkably diplomatic" response.

The opposition leader of Manchester City Council, Lib Dem Councillor John Leech, told LBC News: "I do the Tories have a bloody cheek to be pointing the finger anywhere other than in the direction of this incompetent government."

The Government is expected to make an announcement on Friday on the status of the measures in the North West of England and Leicester.

Measures banning mixing between households were due for review on Thursday, a week after they were brought in for residents in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire, as well as Leicester.