CAMPAIGNERS have called for public health experts to take over the Covid test and trace system entirely.

The health campaigners from the Oxfordshire branch of a group called Keep Our NHS Public described the current system as 'a scandalous failure'.

This they said, was because it did not track down as many people as it should, and due to the £22 billion costs of paying contractors to carry out the work.

The group lobbied Oxfordshire's joint health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC) to support the move, as the county's director of public health described how local test and trace had been an exemplar.

In a speech to HOSC, a committee made up of councillors and health officials, Janet Phillips of Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public said :The only way to fix testing and tracing is to hand the money and the work over to the experts in our local public health bodies. ‘NHS’ Test and Trace should be scrapped without delay."

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She added: "We cannot wait, though, for the Government to change its mind and provide the necessary funding: we need to make a loud and forceful demand for the resources to be provided now."

The group plans to lobby Oxford City Council to support its calls next month.

At the same meeting, Oxfordshire's director of public health Ansaf Azhar described the successes of the local test and trace system introduced in October, but said it was 'supplementary' to the national system.

Witney Gazette:

Ansaf Azhar (top centre) addresses the health committee

Mr Azhar said the latest data on Covid infection rates showed that Oxfordshire's rates were slightly below surrounding counties in all age groups.

He added that it was too early to tell if this trend would continue, but said the fall in rates which had already happened could in part be contributed to local test and trace, which aimed to fill in the gaps of the national system.

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The public health expert said the local system had picked up approximately 800 contacts from the national system in the month it had been in operation, approximately 500 of which had been successfull contacted either by the phone or through door knocking.

Of the remaining 300 people who had not been contacted, Mr Azhar said the majority were students at Oxford's two universities and were already been looked after by the institutions.

He added: "We do know there will always be a group of people we will never be able to contact and I think that is acceptable but to be able to reach this number of people who wouldn’t have otherwise been contacted will play a massive part in breaking the chain of transmission."

The HOSC meeting was held just as it was confirmed that Oxfordshire would be placed into Tier 2 of local restrictions after lockdown ends on December 2.