Image credit: Governor Tom Wolf on Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Gina Reynolds, Head of Adult Services, Health, and Well-being for Salford Council, spoke of her frustrations regarding the lack of Government communication and broken promises of mass Coronavirus testing for the area this week.
Speaking at the weekly council meeting, Cllr. Reynolds was asked whether Salford had agreed to be an “early adopter” of saliva-based Covid testing.
She said: “The ambition was to undertake mass community testing to better protect our residents.”
Our Health Improvement Service are doing a fantastic job of keeping people safe; which is much appreciated https://t.co/l4GWlsyyP1
— Gina Reynolds (@Gina4Labour) November 17, 2020
This was initially due to take place in September, as part of the Government’s Operation Moonshot, with 70% of Salford’s population to be tested.
“We agreed to this pilot in good faith and we’ve been fully committed to working with the Government on this in advance of a vaccine.”
However, they’ve found that the reality of the situation has been much different than they were expecting, with the Government being unwilling to enter serious discussions and the council failing to mobilise mass testing as a result:
“We haven’t done mass testing and we haven’t tested 70% of our population.”
This is despite promises of mass testing in the region being made by MPs and even the Prime Minister who stated publicly that mass testing in Salford was “ready for use” in September.
This had led to the council having “difficult conversations” with residents and increased workloads for council staff due to the growing number of inquiries related to the confusion caused by the “Government’s failings” to communicate.
In early October, the City Council rolled out its own programme of asymptomatic tests which included the testing of teaching staff and used both saliva and antigen tests but were unable to progress due to the lack of consumables available from the Manchester testing labs.
Testing will however be available for students of the University of Salford, who are being offered rapid turnaround tests during the first week of December, in line with the student travel window in order to get them home for Christmas.
Councillor Reynolds is said to be “disappointed” with the Government and how they have treated the council, as they have been working extremely hard trying to test as many people as possible.
(an audio piece relating to this story can also be found here)
She described the Government’s handling of Operation Moonshot, which has already cost over £12 billion, as being “like building the channel tunnel without civil engineers looking at the plans”.
As Salford has now been asked to undertake Lateral Flow Testing and Royal Mail winning the contract to distribute Moonshot’s home testing kits, Cllr. Reynolds hopes that Boris Johnson’s team have “learned from their mistakes” and are finally ready to begin mass testing Salford and it’s residents.