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THE government must not rely on the vaccination programme alone to end the pandemic, campaigners warned today as lockdown restrictions were eased.
The Zero Covid campaign group, set up to promote a strategy to eliminate the spread of infections, is calling on ministers to roll out public health measures alongside the vaccine drive.
This includes the replacement of the failed track-and-trace system run by private firm Serco with an “effective, local, and publicly run system,” said the group.
A zero-Covid strategy has been adopted with success in several countries including New Zealand and South Korea.
“Other countries whose vaccination programmes are not as advanced as the UK’s have eliminated the virus by adhering to international best practice in pandemic control,” the Zero Covid campaign said in a statement.
“The government’s reliance on a vaccination programme has left it short of options for ending the pandemic, reviving our economy and enabling us to resume our normal lives.
“We call on [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson to implement a zero-Covid strategy now.”
About 32 million Britons have received the first dose of the vaccine, but fears remain of a potential third wave if other measures are not taken.
Civil servants’ union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Due to the NHS and an army of volunteers, the vaccination programme has helped keep hospital admissions low recently, but we need to do more to stop a potential third Covid wave.
“We support the calls for a publicly funded track-and-trace system, which will help us tackle the virus if there are further outbreaks in the future.”
Mr Serwotka added that ministers should allow civil servants to keep working from home.
Anti-privatisation group We Own It campaigns officer Pascale Robinson said that failures to implement an effective track-and-trace system in the past 12 months have led to the country being “stuck in the cycle of lockdowns we’ve been in since the pandemic first hit.”
"The vaccination programme is a brilliant example of what well resourced, well-funded and publicly delivered service can achieve,” she said. “But it can’t suppress the virus alone. The government should replicate the vaccination’s success and end the privatisation of the test-and-trace system for good, putting it in the hands of the NHS and local public health teams.”
A government spokesperson said: “As set out in the roadmap, the success of the vaccination rollout, alongside falling infections and hospitalisations, has helped pave the way for the safe and gradual lifting of restrictions.
“Local authorities and public health leaders have been at the forefront of efforts to tackle the virus in our communities and we continue to work hand-in-hand with them as part of our Vaccine Uptake Plan, to ensure communities with lower take up have the right information and support they need.
“Alongside the vaccination programme, testing is playing a significant role in our coronavirus response and the NHS Test and Trace app has been shown to have prevented an estimated 600,000 covid cases since launch. By identifying asymptomatic cases it is helping us identify variants, break chains of transmission and stop the spread.”
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