Contact tracing could be undermined by Cummings support – Jonathan Ashworth

Contact tracing could be undermined by continued Government support for Dominic Cummings, the shadow health secretary has said.

Jonathan Ashworth voiced support for NHS Test and Trace launched in England on Thursday morning as “the only way we can safely ease out of this lockdown”.

But he added that Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s support for Boris Johnson’s chief adviser could “undermine” public co-operation with the scheme.

Under the new system, people who come into close contact with a coronavirus sufferer will be told to self-isolate for 14 days, while an accompanying app is still delayed by several weeks.

Coronavirus – Wed May 27, 2020
A message from NHS Test and Trace (Test and Trace service/PA)

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Ashworth said: “We need everybody to co-operate with this because it’s in all of our interests that this works, and I’m sorry, I’ve got to say it, it’s why I think Matt Hancock’s support of Dominic Cummings is really irresponsible.

“My worry is some people will think ‘Why should I stay at home for two weeks on my own when I feel fine, while this guy who’s Boris Johnson’s big pal in Downing Street can get away with travelling across the country to Durham?'”

The Labour MP also urged the Government to return test results within 24 hours, instead of up to five days, to ensure that those required to isolate will get sick pay from the start of their quarantine period.

He said: “I think we should look at the sick pay rules and whether sick pay needs to be enhanced.

“Statutory sick pay, as I understand it, only gets triggered when someone tests positive, but you could be waiting days and days and days for your test to come through and you’re not at work, so we need to iron that out.”

Mr Ashworth also supported the tracing system being rolled out on a voluntary basis, with people encouraged to co-operate as part of their “civic duty”, but said if this fails “we may have to look at making it mandatory”.

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