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REDCAR AND CLEVELAND: ‘Vulnerable took hardest hits’ – councillor blasts Government covid response

REDCAR AND CLEVELAND: ‘Vulnerable took hardest hits’ – councillor blasts Government covid response

A covid-19 testing centre for key workers at Redcar Leisure Centre. Picture/credit: Redcar and Cleveland Council.

A veteran councillor has blasted the Government over its initial handling of the covid-19 pandemic.

Steve Kay, cabinet member for health, housing and welfare at Redcar and Cleveland Council, said local councils should have been involved more in managing the outbreak and suggested they were not trusted by the Government.

Cllr Kay made his remarks in a cabinet report outlining developments with his portfolio over the last 12 months.

While praising the council’s public health and community teams for their “extraordinary efforts” and working tirelessly to limit the impact of the virus in the borough, he said: “Our staff’s burden could have been reduced had the Government done more to involve local authorities in the initial phase of the pandemic, rather than relying on herd immunity.

“The result of Government hesitation and indecision was an NHS pushed to its limits and, sadly, unnecessary suffering and deaths.

“The vulnerable, especially in care homes, took the hardest hits.

“Once instituted, [NHS] Test and Trace was over centralised and chaotic, only improving when council public health teams became involved.”

Cllr Kay added: “Covid is still with us.

“It must never be forgotten that councils have intimate knowledge of their areas.

“Knowledge, which can only be used to its best effect, through provision, by the Government, of both the necessary data and resources.

“[The] Government must learn to trust councils, especially when it comes to local matters.”

Responding to Cllr Kay’s criticism, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic we have been guided by scientific and medical experts and we never shied away from taking quick and decisive action to save lives and protect our NHS, including introducing restrictions and lockdowns.

“As the Prime Minister has said, we are committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and have committed to holding a full public inquiry in the spring.”

The spokesman denied that herd immunity – a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that can occur when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through previous infections or vaccination – was ever part of the Government’s strategy.

The Government said from the start of the pandemic it had done everything it could to protect care homes and placed residents and staff in the highest priority group for vaccinations.

It added that in a matter of months the largest UK testing network in history had been built from scratch and the NHS Test and Trace system had played an “essential role” in combating the outbreak, contacting more than 18.3 million people to date, breaking chains of transmission, slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives.

Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter

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