Robert Jenrick has said councils are bound to do a better job of coronavirus contact tracing and that the Government will be supporting them to do this.
His comments come amid reports local authorities are to be given greater control over the NHS Test and Trace programme.
Labour MP Angela Eagle asked the question, many other might have been thinking about, on Twitter when she wrote: “Why did it take this Govt £12 billion and 7 wanted months to realise the blindingly obvious?”
The Government has not set out exactly what powers will be given to local authorities.
But The Sunday Times reported plans are being drawn up to give local leaders powers to deploy an army of volunteer contact tracers as well as giving local authorities more control over mobile testing units and walk-in centres.
How does local contact tracing work?
Once a person has a confirmed positive coronavirus test, their case is transferred to NHS Test and Trace, which makes an initial decision on how to handle it based on its complexity.
Non-complex cases are then contacted either online or by the call centre staff and asked to give details of their contacts.
But complex cases are escalated to local health protection teams who work to identify and reach recent close contacts and advise them to self-isolate.
Nottingham continues to have the highest rate in England, with 2,763 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 8 – the equivalent of 830.0 cases per 100,000 people.
This is a huge jump from 314.5 per 100,000 in the seven days to October 1.
Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has climbed from 485.9 to 669.5, with 1,010 new cases.
Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has increased from 504.4 to 598.5, with 2,981 new cases.
Other areas recording big jumps in their seven-day rates include West Lancashire (up from 217.8 to 398.1, with 455 new cases); Exeter (up from 229.8 to 380.5, with 500 new cases); Blackburn with Darwen (up from 208.4 to 355.4, with 532 new cases); and Broxtowe (up from 115.8 to 265.7, with 303 new cases).
Enough is enough
Labour will have to say “enough is enough” and refuse to support further Government Covid restrictions at some point, the leader of Manchester City Council has said.
Sir Richard Leese made the comments ahead of the introduction of new three-tier coronavirus rules as northern MPs and mayors voiced alarm at the Government’s handling of the situation.
However, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy made it clear that while Labour wants to force a vote on a better financial package for those impacted by the fresh restrictions, the party is unlikely to oppose the new rules.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the party would not vote down restrictions like the 10pm pub curfew in the coming days because such a move would hit other restrictions as well.
Sir Richard said the party leader faces “great difficulties” over Covid-19.
He told Times Radio: “At some point, given, frankly, the job that Government have done so far in tackling Covid-19, given, until this week, unwillingness to properly co-operate with local government – this is the first time we’ve had any discussions in eight months, any real discussions with Government over eight months – I think at some point the Labour Party in Parliament has to say, ‘enough is enough, we can’t support this’.
“Clearly at the same time putting a realistic alternative.”
Wigan MP Ms Nandy said Labour will be seeking a vote when Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveils the new three-tier restrictions in the Commons on Monday.
She told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “What we really want… is for the Government to come forward with a package of financial support that enables people to comply with the health restrictions.”
Asked if Labour MPs will join Tory rebels to vote the measures down if the Government does not listen, Ms Nandy said: “We will try and frame the terms of a debate and vote in the House of Commons so that there is an opportunity to put forward an alternative support package.
“The problem with just voting down what the Government is proposing is – as (Greater Manchester mayor) Andy Burnham and others recognised at the press conference yesterday – is that we support more restrictions coming in, we’ve got to get control of the virus, we support a financial package, but the financial package is not sufficient.
“We don’t want to get rid of what the Chancellor has done. It was right that he said there will be some help, but the help is by no means good enough.”