(Title Image: The Verge)
Local government will be at the forefront of the Welsh Government’s recently-published “track and trace” strategy, though the situation in England provides an idea of the scale of the challenge as well as a warning on how not to approach it.
According to recent reports in The Guardian, many people who signed up to act as contact tracers in England have been left in the dark on what their role would be, having been given a generic script to work from and directed to Youtube videos. An online training system reportedly resulted in a single trainer being available for every 100 tracers.
Last week, Dr Hefin David MS (Lab, Caerphilly) revealed that following discussions with public health authorities 3,000 staff would be required in Wales, with up to 30 people needing to be traced for every single person infected. The Health Minister told him the figure was closer to 1,000 staff but could change.
The issue returned to the Senedd in yesterday’s topical questions.
Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid, South Wales East) said local authorities still haven’t been told how contract tracing will work on the ground. She also asked for clarification on the required numbers of tracers and whether they would come from within local government or via external recruitment.
Mark Isherwood MS (Con, North Wales) warned that local government finances would be “crippled” if the Welsh Government’s doesn’t fully commit to funding the programme.
Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), said making full use of local authority expertise in environmental health was essential, while the full costs are still being identified.
While not giving any clarification on the number of tracers that would be required, the Minister did hint the Welsh Government were learning lessons. While there would still be scripts for tracers to work from, detailed planning was ongoing in terms of data capture and the necessary training requirements.
The Minister also suggested the track and trace programme will be piloted before being rolled-out nationally.