Labour says Dido Harding’s position as head of Test and Trace ‘untenable’

Tor also calls for her to be replaced 

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Sunday 25 October 2020 19:03 GMT
Shadow health secretary Rosena Allin-Khan says head of Test and Trace Dido Harding's position 'untenable'

Boris Johnson is facing increasing calls to sack the head of NHS Test and Trace amid fears the programme is failing to get the number of Covid-19 cases under control.  

As pressure mounted on the prime minister to replace Dido Harding, a senior Tory MP called for a military officer to be drafted in in her place.  

A member of Labour’s frontbench Dr Rosena Allin-Khan also described Baroness Harding’s position as “untenable”.

Amid growing evidence that the public is ignoring NHS Test and Trace’s advice to self-isolate for a fortnight after contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19, ministers are even considering slashing the time frame in half in a desperate bid to drive up compliance. 

At the moment contacts of people infected with Covid-19 are told to self-isolate for 14 days.  

But this could be cut to just seven following fears of a widespread flouting of the rules.  

The move would not apply to those who test positive for the disease, however.  

The prime minister has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the ailing NHS Test and Trace programme, which last week reached just 60 per cent of the contacts of those who tested positive for the virus, a record low.  

But the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, defended Baroness Harding saying she had done a "very good job" in the role.

He rejected a call by Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin for a senior military commander to take charge instead.

“We want to see [Test and Trace] improve, we want to see it grow and get better and better. That’s how we fight this virus. But actually I think Dido and the team have done a very good job to get to where we are,” Mr Lewis told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

Dr Allin-Khan said Baroness Harding's position was “untenable”.  

“The Tories can see just how catastrophic the Test, Trace and Isolate system has been,” she said.  

“It's time to put it back to the local communities who know their communities best.

“[Baroness Harding’s] position is very difficult, it’s untenable really, but fundamentally this comes down to the responsibility of the government, they have failed people.

“There are people going into this Christmas period not knowing if they're going to be able to hug their elderly parent in a care home for the last time or not.

“We need to be speaking up for them and for that we need to put it back into the hands of our local public health teams.”

Mr Lewis confirmed the self-isolation guidelines could be changed, but said any changes would be guided by science.  

“Teams are looking at what we can do around those isolation periods. This will be scientifically-led,” he said.

“We are learning more about the virus every single day. As we learn … we can look at whether we can reassess that.”

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s national statistician, highlighted a King’s College study that showed about 70 per cent of people said they would self-isolate if they had symptoms.  

However, a “very much lower proportion” who had had symptoms did isolate for a long as they were supposed to, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.  

He added: “I do think really continuing to learn about the virus, continuing to learn about infectivity and continuing to identify the optimal times for self-isolation is important ... it’s critical, because self-isolation is an incredibly important part of the way in which we will control this virus.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in