Teachers struggling with ‘unacceptable’ lack of covid tests in London’s worst hit borough

  • london
  • September 29, 2020
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An MP for the London borough worst hit by coronavirus has said it is ‘unacceptable’ that schools are only being supplied with 10 tests each.

In a letter addressed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Labour’s Sam Tarry discussed the ‘alarming’ difficulties teaching staff in Redbridge are facing. There is currently a rate of 68 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the area.

Tarry, MP for Ilford South, stated that the government’s national guidelines for Covid-19 are ‘too vague’, and described how they had caused ‘growing frustration and angst’ amid the community.

He went on: ‘It is unacceptable to hear that the Test, Track and Trace system is still not performing well enough and has meant that the turnaround time for tests in Redbridge is now on average three days for staff.

‘This creates complex situations in schools; for example there is no extra money to cover for the supply costs of teachers who are having to isolate, and many of our schools have had to send year groups home, while others are having trouble protecting staff who were shielding before.’

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Tarry stated that the 10 coronavirus tests being given to schools are ‘far below the number needed’ and warned that they are now approaching a ‘dangerous period’ in the weeks leading up to half-term.

It’s ridiculous that the Govt has only provided 10 #COVID19 tests per school, when they are already struggling to deal with the pandemic.

I’ve heard from teachers where whole departments have had to self isolate due to lack of access to testing.

We need the Govt to act swiftly. pic.twitter.com/wUI1EDJILb

— Sam Tarry MP (@SamTarry) September 29, 2020

Redbridge is currently the worst hit London area by coronavirus, with 208 confirmed cases confirmed in the week to September 24. This is up from 139 cases the week before.

In nearby Barking and Dagenham, 123 people tested positive in the week to the 24th, compared to 70 cases in the seven days previous.

Already this week, Jas Athwal, the Labour leader of Redbridge council, has called for stricter measures to be introduced in the area to prevent a further rise in covid cases.

The councillor told Radio 4: ‘Mixing face-to-face should be stopped immediately… we are seeing the pandemic take hold.’

He also described how testing capacity issues were preventing infections from being identified, stating that the borough likely has more cases than the data is showing.

He went on: ‘A testing centre in the heart of Ilford was testing 700 to 800 people a day and it’s one of the biggest centres in London. However, recently it’s only been testing 100 to 150 people per day because of capacity issues at the national laboratory so what we’re seeing is the numbers go down.

‘And of course if you’re losing that kind of capacity the figures are going to be distorted and they’re probably going to be a lot worse than what we’re being shown across the whole of London.’

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