THE West Midlands is hoping to take a lead in developing a ‘track and trace’ system to contain coronavirus as lockdown eases.
The rapid expansion of testing and tracing people who have been in contact with those with symptoms is seen as vital to preventing a second wave of Covid-19.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday pledged the UK would be leading the way on test, track and trace by the end of this month, in response to further criticism of being slow to respond by opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Measures include hiring thousands of people as contact tracers, and rolling out an NHS app which does the job for people downloading it.
The measure was announced as one of three key priorities for the West Midlands Combined Authority at its first coronavirus ‘regional impact’ summit meeting yesterday (Wednesday, May 20).
The meeting was convened by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, chaired by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, and attended by senior cabinet members and leading councillors.
Regional representatives outlined three key requests from Government which they believe are needed to bring about a successful economic recovery:
• Support for the region’s automotive sector
• More flexibility in the Government’s furlough scheme
• Allowing the region to take a leading role in the local implementation of the track and trace programme
Speaking after the event, Mr Street said: “It is essential that the regions are able to take a leading role in driving their economic recovery from this pandemic.
“The West Midlands could be one of the hardest hit regions economically from coronavirus, but, just as we did after the 2008/09 financial crash, we have the opportunity to bounce back fast and strong. We can only achieve this if we are able to press ahead with our own local recovery plan, aided by financial support from Government.
“So today I asked the Government to support us in three ways – a commitment to help the automotive sector as it employs hundreds of thousands of people across the region; for the furlough arrangements to be made flexible between sectors to support our hospitality, tourism and leisure industries; and to give us a local role in the track and trace programme.
“It is good the Government has recognised the critical role regions have to play in the UK’s recovery from coronavirus by holding these meetings, and I am pleased ministers chose to virtually visit the West Midlands first.”