London ready for test-trace-isolate stage of Covid-19 fightback, says Mayor


London is ready for the next stage of Covid-19 response, starting to test, trace and isolate people who have been in contact with the virus, Sadiq Khan has said.

Low levels of infection in the capital mean there is now a “small window of opportunity” to “get ahead of the curve”,  according to the Mayor.

London has been hit harder by Covid-19 than any other region, with almost 6,000 deaths in the city’s hospitals alone.

But the virus appears to have peaked in the capital in mid April, according to death records from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The coronavirus infection rate –  the number that must be kept below one to slow the spread of the disease – is now 0.4 in the capital, a recent study by Cambridge University and Public Health England suggested

And on 18 May no new cases of coronavirus were recorded in the city – though this may have been due to a logging error, with 19 new cases recorded the previous day.

Speaking at a virtual Mayor’s Question Time on 21 May, the Mayor said London is now “ready” to move to the test-trace-isolate phase of pandemic response.

“Because the Government failed to order the right level of tests, on 12 March they changed their advice on test and trace – and that I think was a big mistake,” Mr Khan said.

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“But we now have a window of opportunity to make sure we don’t lead to second wave that could overwhelm the NHS.

“We know in London the numbers of people with Covid-19 is relatively low,  and the number of new cases is relatively low,” he added

“We have a small window of opportunity to properly test, trace isolate and support.”

The Mayor said people should have access to tests within 24 hours, and tracers should follow up and test anyone they’ve had contact with.

But Mr Khan said he was worried that the NHS app designed to help track people who’ve been in contact with the virus has not been trialled in the capital.

London’s high population density, and reliance on public transport make for very different conditions from the Isle of Wight, where the app is being tested, he warned.

“My worry is we as a country have been behind the curve and an outlier rather than being prepared in advance of this virus coming,” the Mayor added.

“We’ve now got a chance, because of the low levels in London, to get ahead of the curve.

“I hope the Government takes up my offer to do test-trace-isolate-support from now – we’re ready.”

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