A 'no entry' sign in a field during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001

Centralised response to COVID-19 ‘reminiscent of handling of foot and mouth’

Expert bacteriologist urges government to give local authorities bigger role in testing and tracing.
15 May 2020 , Katie Coyne

Bacteriologist Hugh Pennington has reiterated calls for local government to be given a bigger role in tackling the pandemic – particularly around contact tracing.

Pennington likened the current government’s centralised response with that of the then government’s response to foot and mouth disease in 2001.

“Everything had to be squared with the Ministry of Agriculture in their offices in Westminster. And that just held everything up and it was all totally bureaucratic, and there was actually no need do that.

“It was different ministries, a different problem, and a different virus affecting people not animals. But it's the same administrative issue that's at the root of the problem. I think that they really need to get a proper management structure.”

Pennington has said testing needed to be increased tenfold in order to support an effective test, track and isolate system.

He added: “The system that's in place for doing contact tracing is highly specialised, a rather small number of folk, and it now has to be expanded by at least probably about a thousand fold to get it running properly, to get a grip on the virus. And you know, we haven't seen much evidence of that yet.”

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