WOKINGHAM Borough Council’s stock of covid tests will NOT be used on councillors.
That’s the promise of the leader, Cllr John Halsall.
There had been speculation on social media that as the Executive hadn’t formally defined who would receive the tests, it would be used by councillors and council staff to bypass the Government’s test and trace service, which is run by private contractors Serco.
At an extraordinary meeting of the executive committee on Thursday, September 24, councillors approved spending up to £120,000 on coronavirus tests for keyworkers as a back-up.
In recent weeks, people have reported numerous problems with the test and trace service, with some being unable to secure a test and others being told to drive to the other side of the country to have a swab taken.
The procurement enables the council to act quickly to administer its own tests, with results anticipated to be returned within 48 hours. This would be beneficial to suspected outbreaks of Covid-19 in care homes or schools.
But Cllr Halsall said it would not be abused.
“If any councillor has coronavirus symptoms, I expect them to self-isolate and follow government advice,” he told Wokingham.Today. “The same goes for council managers as well.
“The tests are entirely for school and care workers, not a single councillor will get one.”
He added that he expects a high take-up of the new NHS Covid-19 phone app.
“We are encouraging residents to download the app and grateful that businesses have the QR codes ready for scanning and they’re being really supportive,” he said.
Coronavirus levels in Wokingham borough remain low compared to other parts of the country. However, the borough council, working with local charities including Citizens Advice Wokingham, The Link Visiting Scheme, and First Days Children’s Charity, to ensure vulnerable and isolating residents were able to access help, receive emergency food parcels and have a listening ear. Council staff were deployed to ensure these services were available.
“We did a good job during the first wave,” Cllr Halsall said. “We’ll go back to having daily top team (update) meetings, we’ve still got the One Front Door scheme, we’ll be working with the charity sector, and we’re talking to charities to come and work with the borough on the issue of mental health.”
However, he said that the council still hadn’t had any informatiuon from the Government about Covid marshall scheme that had been mooted.
And he said that the second wave meant new challenges ahead.
“What we did last time isn’t what we’d do this time, as it’s a different problem. The government was eager to protect the NHS, it is quite well organised now.
“The new element is schools,” he said, adding. “They are well organised though.”
He pledged that the council would continue to ensure that patients with covid weren’t sent to borough care homes, something that went against Government advice at the time.
“I wasn’t elected to represent the Government in Wokingham borough,” he said of this stance, “I’m the leader of Wokingham borough, which means I represent the residents.”