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Failing Test and Trace system has left a quarter of a million Covid-19 contacts untraced

New analysis by Labour has revealed that the Government’s disastrous Test & Trace system has failed to trace almost 250,000 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England.

The analysis, verified by the House of Commons Library, reveals a deeply flawed contact tracing system unable to handle the increase in Covid-19 cases as the country enters a second wave. It shows that last week alone, almost 80,000 close contacts of people who tested positive were not reached and notified.

A contact is defined as someone who has come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Reaching 80% of close contacts is considered one of the key means of slowing transmission of Covid-19.

Yet Labour’s analysis shows that the Government’s contact tracing is going backwards across England, with just over half of close contacts (57.7%) reached last week. For the first time since the weekly Test & Trace figures were published, Labour found that the 80% target was missed in every single local authority and English region.

In the worst-affected regions, the failures of the system mean tens of thousands of people who were in close contact with someone who tested positive were not reached and told to self-isolate last week. In the North West, over 26,000 people were not contacted, with over 14,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber.

On 9th September, the Prime Minister announced ‘Operation Moonshot’, promising a Test and Trace system which would “allow people to lead more normal lives, without the need for social distancing.”  Labour’s figures show that in the four weeks since that statement, over three quarters of local authorities saw their contact tracing rates decline.

The revelations raise further questions about the UK’s tracing system, already under scrutiny due to the Conservative government’s choice of designing a centralised, privatised system contracted out to Serco and Sitel. SAGE minutes from 21st September and published this week highlight how the billions put into the Test and Trace system has only had a “marginal” impact on slowing infection rates.

With some local councils reaching almost 100% of contacts, Labour has called for contact tracing to be handed over to them as part of a two-to-three week circuit break – designed to reverse the trend of infections and hospital admissions and “to rectify some of the mistakes the Government has made.”

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Government must get a grip of the failings of the test and trace system and that means the Prime Minister must act now to reverse the trends we are now seeing.

That is why Labour is calling for a short, sharp circuit break to fix testing, protect the NHS and save lives.” 

Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Rachel Reeves MP added:

“We are at a decisive moment in our efforts to tackle coronavirus, and these figures are a new low for a Test and Trace system on the verge of collapse.

Tests are taking too long, leaving NHS and key workers vulnerable. And the abysmal contact tracing system has failed to reach a quarter of a million close contacts of people with the virus. The government is wasting hundreds of millions on a system that doesn’t seem to function or even use basic common sense.

We’re are beyond the tipping point with the Test & Trace system. Without our local councils working day in day out to pick up the pieces, contact tracing would all have but collapsed”.





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‘Government must fix testing, protect the NHS and get control of the virus’ says Portsmouth MP

Responding to news that the Covid-19 infection rate has doubled in Portsmouth from 43.4/100,000 to 94/100,000 in seven days, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has said latest Government restrictions won’t be enough to get control of the crisis.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Our city and our country are at a decisive moment in our efforts to tackle coronavirus with the numbers across Britain and here in Portsmouth moving in the wrong direction.

With Government losing control of the virus, losing control of the message and is no longer following scientific advice, the measures it has set out in recent weeks are harming the economy and failing to suppress the virus. That’s why another course is needed, and why I back calls for a national reset.

Labour is calling for a national two-three week circuit break that will give us a chance to fix testing, protect the NHS and get control of the virus.

The Prime Minister knows his latest restrictions won’t be enough. He knows he will have to impose harsher restrictions. Portsmouth people can’t wait for Mr Johnson to catch up – he must act now”.



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City MP Calls on Government to hand control of contact tracing to local authorities

Stephen Morgan MP has today urged the government to hand over control of contact tracing to councils and local public health teams, following revelations that the national – largely privatised – system is only making a marginal  difference to addressing rapidly rising rates of Covid-19 infection. 

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“For months, Labour has been asking this government to put contact tracing into the hands of councils and local public health teams who know their own communities better than anyone.

In the face of all the evidence, the Tories are continuing with a system that rewards failure by handing enormous sums of money to big companies such as Serco and Sitel.

The government should look at the science, follow our call to bring in a circuit break and transfer control of contact tracing to local authorities, so that we can better protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Even when the evidence mounts from Peterborough, Cumbria and throughout Wales that local tracing is more effective, the Tory government seems adamant to keep plodding on with a model that puts people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Transferring this control on a local level to Portsmouth is crucial if we are to see the Government get a grip on this crisis and save people’s lives.”


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City MP welcomes new funding for culture in Portsmouth but calls for further action

Welcoming news today that local organisations from the Kings Theatre to Portsmouth Guildhall Trust, Wedgewood Rooms to Mary Rose Museum, will receive culture recovery money, Stephen Morgan MP has said Portsmouth expects the government ‘to go further’.

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“I am delighted that a number of Portsmouth’s arts, music and theatre venues and museums have secured much needed money from the culture recovery fund as announced today, and pleased to have played a part in making this happen.

Arts and culture form part of the soul of our city. Yet coronavirus and the economic crisis risks thousands of redundancies across the country unless the Government introduces sector-specific support.

This sector represents around a fifth of the economy, driving so much growth, yet account for less than one per cent of government spending. It is clear the scale of the challenge is such that help to date just doesn’t go far enough.

I will continue to stand up for culture in our city, lobbying for Portsmouth until Ministers step up and act with tailored support.

Portsmouth expects the Government to go further. If they don’t soon, we risk well-loved assets going under as a result of the coronavirus crisis”.




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City MP calls for additional support and measures for UK areas facing localised restrictions

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to recognise the ‘cliff edge’ faced by those most at risk in Portsmouth and across the country who are both on the furlough scheme, which is set to expire at the end of the month, and in areas facing additional local Covid-19 restrictions.

According to HMRC, 3.5m employments have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in local areas now under local restrictions, or on the amber watch-list.

The Government’s furlough scheme is due to expire at the end of the month. However, the official opposition has highlighted that where there have been bespoke packages of financial support – in Leicester, Liverpool, Hartlepool, Warrington and Middlesbrough – these have come after local restrictions have been put in place.

Leicester was given £3 million, meanwhile Liverpool City Region, Hartlepool, Warrington and Middlesbrough are set to receive £7 million.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented,

“The opposition and I have been calling for months to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and target the areas and sectors that are most at risk.

“It is common sense if an area is going to be locked down it needs greater support, especially areas where many workers are still enrolled on the furlough scheme, which is set to expire at the end of the month.”

Following the Chancellor’s speech at Conservative Party Conference on Monday, the Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds MP, said,

“The Chancellor just spoke for ten minutes, but he had nothing new to say. He just blew his chance to get a grip on Britain’s jobs crisis.”

Mr Morgan has consistently called for targeted support from the government for the sectors and people that are most at risk.



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Portsmouth MP urges city residents to download new Covid-19 NHS app

Stephen Morgan MP has encouraged Portsmouth residents to download and utilise the new NHS Covid-19 app, that was launched by the government on Thursday. This comes following a rise in infection levels both locally and nationally, along with the introduction of new government restrictions.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South has underlined the importance of everyone who can to use the app, for both their own safety and other people who reside in and visit the city.

The app was launched nationwide to help control COVID-19 transmission alongside national and local contact tracing. Features of the app include contact tracing using Bluetooth, risk alerts based on postcode district, QR check-in at venues, symptom checker and test booking.

Since Thursday, businesses are now required by law to display the official NHS QR code posters so people can check-in at different premises with the app.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented,

“I urge everyone across the city who can to download and make use of the NHS Covid-19 track and tracing app. This is particularly important now as we have seen the recent rise in infection levels both here and across the country.

“I also would encourage our local businesses to make sure they are now displaying the NHS QR code posters to allow customers to check-in to their businesses.”

You can find out more about the app and how to download it via the government website.

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City MP responds to new Covid restrictions

Responding to the announcement of the Prime Minister of new Covid restrictions, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Here in Portsmouth we have all played our part by working together in fighting this virus through largely following government guidelines. But we can’t be complacent.

Whilst infection levels have remained relatively low compared to the rest of the country, we have seen a rise in the last few weeks.

With the concerns over recent handling of the pandemic and real challenges with the testing strategy, Government’s new measures must make a difference and save lives”.





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City MP backs local Portsmouth charity’s ‘Shrink the elephant’ campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has backed Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service’s (PARCS) campaign to ‘shrink the elephant’, that aims to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexual abuse and challenge cultural norms that perpetuate abuse.

The charity argues sexual abuse can sometimes feel like the elephant in the room, and believes we all have the power to ‘shrink the elephant’.

The campaign comes as part of PARCS’ wider initiative ‘Project Catalyst’, that seeks to support and empower local young women in Portsmouth to become leaders in the reduction of violence and abuse against women and girls.

Stephen Morgan MP commented:

“I am proud to support PARCS’ important campaign to highlight the challenges survivors of sexual violence and domestic/sexual abuse face everyday.

The work of the entire team of PARCS and Project Catalyst is truly inspiring and I am keen to do all I can to offer the support they need.”

It was reported in late July that more than 40,000 calls and contacts were made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of lockdown, most by women seeking help.

In June, calls and contacts were nearly 80% higher than usual, according to charity Refuge, which runs the helpline.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added:

“I’m deeply concerned by the recent figures that have shown a worrying spike in cases of domestic abuse nationally, particularly during lockdown.

“As we head into the winter period and the risk of a second lockdown looms, it is incredibly vital these issues experienced both here in Portsmouth and nationally are raised in Parliament, and I will be doing just that in the coming weeks.”

Mr Morgan went to visit PARCS in his constituency ofPortsmouth South earlier this month, and has previously written to the Home Secretary earlier this year, highlighting the rise of domestic abuse in the UK during lockdown.



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Covid-19 update: Stephen Morgan MP’s recent parliamentary actions on testing

In recent days, Mr Morgan has been receiving an increasing number of enquiries about issues with Covid-19 testing and social care support.

He has recently asked the government to provide urgent answers on:

Mr Morgan is also awaiting answers from the government on distances travelled by constituents for testing, testing for our Armed Forces and the pandemic’s impact on both ports and schools.

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Stephen Morgan MP demands Ministers extend Job Retention Scheme in House of Commons

During questions to the Department for Work and Pensions, city MP Stephen Morgan put pressure on the Government to extend the financial support available to those struggling during the pandemic.

Mr Morgan’s action in the House of Commons come as statistics reveal employment has decreased by 220,000 on the quarter. The largest quarterly decrease since 2009. While in July, there were 730,000 fewer people in paid employment compared with March 2020 and 114,000 fewer when compared with June 2020.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Unemployment is soaring, uptake in benefits has skyrocketed and experts say marginalised communities are bearing the brunt.

When employment is down to the lowest point in over a decade, the government must be ramping up support not removing the safety net.

The Government has been repeatedly warned that their one-size-fits-all approach to the job’s crisis will cost many their livelihoods, especially in communities like ours in Portsmouth.”

Concerns have been raised by Trade Unions, organisations such as Hospitality UK, and charities that the Job Retention Scheme is ending far too early.

Mr Morgan added:

“The latest Job Retention Scheme figures show that nearly 80% of workers in the accommodation and food services sector have been furloughed, a sector that employs many people in our community.

The furlough scheme is ending next month, yet we are still far from back to normal. Government must provide targeted support to those who are being hit hardest by this pandemic.”

The Portsmouth South MP has vowed to continue to put pressure on the government to end their blanket cessation to end to the furlough scheme.