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Council leaders call on Secretary of State to ''hand over test and trace''

The Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council has written to Matt Hancock MP, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with an impassioned plea to put the responsibility for the test and trace in the hands of East Sussex health agencies and provide the funding they need to deliver a service that will "keep our communities safe."

The letter from Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council, follows widespread reports from directors of public health about the lack of capacity, delays and associated problems. Last week the Director of Public Health for East Sussex, Darrell Gale, explained how he was offered a Covid test over 600 miles away in Inverness, Scotland.

Councillor Zoe Nicholson said: "Our community in Lewes, like many others across the UK, is continuing to see a large surge in cases of coronavirus. The forecasts for infections are worrying, given that we are now fast approaching a second lockdown it's even more important that government uses this time in the coming weeks to save lives and not put communities and families at risk of further heartbreak and grief.

"I firmly believe that the Secretary of State should hand over test and trace to professionals with the local knowledge and expertise that will keep our communities safe, backed up by the funding that will make it possible. Matt Hancock needs to do this during lockdown, otherwise the coming weeks will achieve less than it could and we will face a longer time where businesses cannot function and people's mental health will be severely affected.

"The current arrangements continue to lurch from one shambles to another and it has to stop."

Councillor Nicholson wants to see the testing regime expanded and targeted so that everyone with symptoms can get a test this winter.

Councillor James MacCleary added: "Local government and regional public health protection teams have been doing a tremendous job since the first outbreak of coronavirus in the UK, in large part because of their intimate understanding of the areas they cover. There is no doubt that they are best placed to deliver contract tracing most effectively."