Nottinghamshire health chiefs will get postcode data to help prevent local lockdowns

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Postcode-level data is now available to health experts in Nottinghamshire tasked with managing any local lockdowns which may become necessary.

It comes after it was revealed public health officials in Leicester were only given the full picture days after health bosses in London realised there was a spike.

The problem revolves around where Covid tests are carried out.

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Data for tests in hospitals, known as pillar one testing – are made public and can be seen by everyone.

Postcode-level data from Covid-19 testing will be available to help prevent local lockdowns in NottinghamshirePostcode-level data from Covid-19 testing will be available to help prevent local lockdowns in Nottinghamshire
Postcode-level data from Covid-19 testing will be available to help prevent local lockdowns in Nottinghamshire

However data for tests carried out in the community – either at home or at drive-in centres, and processed by commercial labs, known as pillar two testing – were only made available to public health officials from Monday, June 29.

With fewer people in hospitals for Covid, the percentage of tests carried out in the community has risen.

It means that at the time Leicester went into lockdown the official, published number of cases was just 80 cases in the fortnight, despite the real figure being 944, once the pillar two figures were included.

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At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “One of the problems in Leicester was the local authority only had half of the data.

“They had data for pillar one Covid tests – that’s NHS, care workers, and tests in hospitals.

“They didn’t have pillar two tests – the wider tests in the community.

“Now that may sound technical, but what that meant, was that the local authority thought there were 80 positive tests in the last fortnight, when the real total was 944.

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“The local authority was only given the real figure last Thursday.

“So there was a lost week while the virus was spreading and there are now real fears of further local lockdowns.

“Can the Prime Minister give a cast iron guarantee that no other local authority will ever be put in that position again.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson replied: “Well actually I’m afraid the right honourable gentleman is mistaken, because both pillar one and pillar two data have been shared not just with Leicester but with all local authorities across the country.”

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Public health bosses in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, who were tasked with drawing up action plans for how to deal with local outbreaks, have revealed they were given the pillar two data on Monday.

In a joint statement, Alison Challenger, the director of public health for Nottingham, and Jonathan Gribbin, the director of public health for Nottinghamshire, said: “As of week commencing June 29, public health directors do now have access to data about the postcodes in which people testing positive live.

“The data are currently being analysed to enable us to build a full picture of how the disease is circulating in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

“Where we identify cause for concern we will take the necessary action including communication with the public about their role in containing the virus.

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“The best way the public can help to stop the spread of the virus is to maintain two metres apart from other people where possible and at least one metre where this is not possible, to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds, to self-isolate if symptoms exist and to get tested and follow the advice when the results are given.

“These steps remain the single best way of combating the disease in our communities.

“We will continue to work with our communities and if outbreaks occur we will work quickly and decisively to deploy all necessary actions to contain and suppress the virus through the best strategies in each case.”

Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care have both been approached for comment.