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Council wants to bring Covid testing under its own control

Greenwich councillors have backed a move to break away from the government’s test and trace system and instead bring coronavirus testing under its own control, as case numbers of the virus spiral across London.

It comes as the rate of Covid-19 in the south-east London borough jumps to 20.1 cases per 100,000 people, while neighbouring authority Bexley last week recorded the highest rate of infections in south London.

Concerns over the test and trace system have been widespread across the capital following the return of schools earlier this month, with Greenwich leader Dan Thorpe previously describing the situation as “a total shambles”.

It came as residents across south-east London in recent weeks were directed to locations as far away as central Scotland and rural Wales for tests.

It saw Cllr Thorpe and deputy leader Denise Scott-McDonald move the motion to bring testing operations in-house at the 23 September full meeting of council.

“There’s absolutely no denying…testing has been at the heart of the government’s strategy but execution has been an absolute and utter scandal,” Cllr Thorpe told the meeting.

In response, Opposition leader Nigel Fletcher said “there is nothing to be gained” by himself and Labour leader Thorpe “having a slanging match”.

While the Tories didn’t support the motion to bring testing in-house, Cllr Fletcher said they shared similar concerns.

“We all share the frustrations and we all understand the anger about access to testing in this borough,” he said. “But I think we should recognise that the government has massively increased the testing capacity since the start of this crisis and that the testing rate is now among the best in the world.”

Greenwich already handles testing in care homes within the borough, the result of an agreement with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, and the authority has backed itself to extend that to all facets of the community.