A new poll has found that three quarters of the British public want to see the government’s programme of mass testing – dubbed ‘Operation Moonshot – run by the NHS and public health protection teams rather than private companies.
The poll, conducted by Survation, found that 78% of people want to see the logistics of the programme run by publicly, by the NHS and local public health protection teams, compared to just 11% who want it run by a private company like Serco or G4S.
It follows revelations that Salford – chosen by the government to pilot the new 20-minute saliva-based tests – was “quite a way off” reaching a 20,000 a week target.
Hannah Dobrowolska, executive lead for corporate governance for the local clinical commissioning group, said: “We haven’t got to 250 a day yet, so we’re still quite a way off higher numbers than that. But this stage is all about testing different groups of people in different ways to see where it can add most value.”
This is despite leaked documents suggesting that “letters of comfort” to private companies had already been signed by the government to deliver ‘Operation Moonshot’. According to the British Medical Journal, Serco and G4S have received these letters for the running of logistics and warehousing.
Serco is already heavily involved with the running of aspects of the coronavirus response.
Campaigns group We Own It, who commissioned the polling, said it was time for a different approach to the coronavirus testing and tracing scheme.
Campaigners officer Pascale Robinson said: “It is now clear beyond all doubt, that the government’s test, track and trace system is in complete disarray. It’s putting people’s lives at risk and it’s frankly unacceptable.
“A major factor in this failure is the fact that the government has hived off so much of its pandemic response to private companies like Serco, Deloitte and Sitel. With coronavirus cases rising and the country facing tightening restrictions, lives are needlessly being put at risk.
“So it beggars belief that in the government’s new programme – designed to finally get a handle on the problem – they’re planning on rewarding the same companies already making a mess with brand new contracts. It’s time for the government to face reality. It’s time the pandemic response was given to the people who know what they’re doing – the NHS and local public health protection teams.”