York to launch it’s own Covid contact tracing service – as new figures show the national system is ‘not good enough’

Shoppers on Coney Street. Photograph: YorkMix

York plans to launch its own coronavirus contact tracing system before pupils return to school, after the city’s health boss condemned the national service as ‘not good enough’.

York’s director of public health Sharon Stoltz also said she is concerned about the number of people not wearing masks and social distancing in the busy city centre.

She told a council meeting that

  • there have been 97 positive Covid-19 cases in York registered with the test and trace scheme
  • of which 82 were contacted
  • identifying 176 contacts
  • of which, 113 have been traced.

That’s a success rate of just 64%.

Cllr Pete Kilbane asked director of public health Sharon Stoltz if she felt the system was good enough to reassure parents before pupils return to school next month.

Ms Stoltz said: “Clearly this is not good enough and the figures need to be higher than that.

“What we’re gearing up to do at the moment is establish a local contact tracing service that can work alongside the universities and schools as a first point of contact.”

In place by September

She said the local test and trace won’t be operated completely separately to the NHS system “but it will allow us to very quickly do a local triage, to work with schools, reassure parents and share our contact data we are tracing locally.

“We are developing that system now and it will be in place before schools open in September.”

She said a local test and trace system would be better than a national programme and hopes one will soon be rolled out.

Council leader Keith Aspden has written to ministers asking that the city is given the resources “to be able to follow up more of our own contacts”.

Cllr Claire Douglas said residents have contacted her with worries about the city centre being busy, with “only a handful of people wearing face coverings and no real adherence to social distancing”.

Ms Stoltz agreed that more people need to wear a face covering indoors and outdoors where social distancing is not possible – and said the council is looking to run a innovative campaign.

The New York campaign

“It is something we’re looking at – about what more we can do as a city to encourage people to wear face coverings.

“We’re looking at an innovative campaign that we might use along the lines of a campaign that New York used to try to encourage it.

“But it is a concern, it’s a concern for me when I walk around the city and see so few people wearing face coverings.”

Complaints about businesses

The rules at the Posterngate, a Wetherspoons pub on Piccadilly. Photograph: Richard McDougall

The council has received a “handful” of complaints about businesses not asking for customer details for test and trace, as well as “a few complaints” about venues not adhering to social distancing.

Matt Boxall, head of public protection, said environmental officers are following up on the complaints, and carrying out weekend patrols.

“In the first instance we are discussing any concerns with the businesses, but we would not rule out using our powers under Health and Safety legislation, where it is appropriate to do so.

“Thankfully, compliance is good and we’re seeing some great examples of businesses going above and beyond the guidelines in the city.

“We are grateful to the many businesses across York who have innovated and adapted to reopen safely, creating a welcoming and considerate environment for their customers.”

The “vast majority” are complying with the guidance, he said.

The council has received a total of 291 complaints relating to coronavirus since the start of lockdown.