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Doctor warns COVID-19 testing switch leaves council 'fighting in the dark'

A doctor co-ordinating Slough’s efforts to contain COVID-19 has likened the switch to appointment-only tests as ‘like fighting in the dark’.

Dr Vanita Dutta, public health programme manager, told a virtual meeting of Slough Borough Council’s Outbreak Engagement Board on Wednesday she feared changes to the operation of the virus testing site in Montem Lane could have short and long-term impacts.

She said: “All the good work that we’ve done to change behaviours and get people proactively testing may be impacted.”

“We are basically fighting in the dark because we do not know what is there in the community,” she added.

Dr Dutta told the meeting a local test and trace system was due to launch in the borough yesterday (Thursday).

Details of all positive cases within the community will be provided by the test and trace system with a team of Slough-based call handlers, speaking a variety of languages, tasked with contacting those affected.

Dr Dutta said: “When Slough was designated as an ‘area of concern’ one of the things that was offered was access to the local contact tracing. One of the issues raised by NHS Test and Trace for Slough was the variety of languages and the non-capacity of NHS Test and Trace to have those languages.”

Members of the Outbreak Engagement Board also heard from Superintendent Gavin Wong, LPA Commander for Slough, on how police officers intended to manage the Government’s new rules on socialising. New restrictions mean police will be able to disperse gatherings of more than six people, indoors or outdoors, and fine individuals involved.

Supt Wong said fines would be issued in Slough as a ‘last resort’ but he said it was important to strike the right balance between encouragement and enforcement.

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