The Shadow Chancellor has suggested a second lockdown is ‘inevitable’ unless the UK can ‘sort out’ its test, track and trace strategy.
Anneliese Dodds claimed the Government is a ‘very, very long way away from having the right infrastructure’, branding the issue a ‘major problem’ amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, Ms Dodds also warned that the UK is facing an unemployment problem bigger than anything seen in ‘many hundreds of years’. She said: ‘The absolutely critical issue to us returning to at least approaching normals levels of economic activity… Is to get test, track and trace right. Until we have that infrastructure we will inevitably see reimpositions of lockdowns and, or, a longer lockdown.’
The Government — which has been widely criticised on testing — is currently piloting a tracing app on the Isle of Wight, in an effort to find anyone who might have been infected by known positive cases. That strategy has been hugely effective abroad, in countries like South Korea.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed that an ‘army of people’ were ready to help as the pilot scheme was rolled out, but the app designed to help trace possible cases has faced questions around its security and it is unclear when it will be ready. And today the Government confirmed the app would not be ready for June 1, when the next stage of lockdown easing could begin.
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Ms Dodds, 42, urged the Government to ‘hurry up and sort it out as quickly as possible.’
Labelling test, track and trace the ‘million dollar question’, she continued: ‘With lockdown it is impossible to avoid an economic impact. So having that infrastructure will be crucially important.
‘If we did see a new outbreak and we hadn’t had that intelligence around where it was being transmitted then understandably the impulse – and quite rightly – would be to prevent it stemming any further and that would mean the reimposition of social distancing.
‘(We would) have a more generalised lockdown than is necessary.’
First implemented on March 23, the UK lockdown was eased earlier this month. But there are fears that relaxing restrictions further without certain measures in place could lead to a second wave of cases.
Experts have warned that prolonging the current lockdown could cause permanent scarring to the economy, but others have stressed the need to balance that threat with the possibility of a second wave and a renewed lockdown.
Labour has been careful not to criticise the Government too heavily over its response to the pandemic – and to be ‘constructive’ when doing so, but Ms Dodds did say other countries had better information available for track and trace and that the UK had been ‘slow’ on the issue.
Previously a Shadow Treasury Minister under Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Dodds was promoted to her current role by new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last month.
With the Chancellor yesterday predicting a severe recession the ‘likes of which we have never seen’, his opposite number cautioned that unemployment is likely to be a particularly serious issue, suggesting ‘we haven’t seen this speed of an economic dislocation for many hundreds of years.’
But Ms Dodds played down the possibility of Labour backing a Universal Basic Income in response, calling instead for the government to bring back confidence in the economy and be ‘brave’ in working with organisations who can help it to battle the pandemic.
The Oxford East MP said she was ‘very, very hopeful’ of a vaccine being found, praising the work of Oxford University.
She added that she wanted to take part in the clinical trials being carried out at the institution – but could not because she thinks she may have had the virus herself.
Metro.co.uk has asked the Government to comment.
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Source: Metro News UK