Blackburn, Blackpool and rest of Lancashire get extra cash to self-isolate in ‘trailblazing’ government trial

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A pilot scheme is being launched across the county to try and stop the spread of coronavirus variants and get more people tested

Lancashire will receive £2.5 million as part of a ‘trailblazing’ government plan to try and encourage people to get tested for Covid-19 and follow self-isolation rules.

The county is among nine areas of England where a wide range of ‘trailblazing’ tactics will be rolled out in a new pilot scheme.

The government said the pilots involve increased social care support for vulnerable adults, “buddying” services for people needing mental health support and translation assistance for non-English speakers.

People isolating in overcrowded houses in the trial areas will also be offered alternative accommodation.

Government bosses say they hope these will be ‘new, creative ways to help ensure people stick to self-isolation rules with higher prevalence of infection including from new variants.’

The pilots are designed to encourage people ‘most at risk of catching and transmitting COVID-19 to come forward for testing and to self-isolate successfully if they test positive’, the government added.

The areas that will receive funding for these pilots are Lancashire, Blackburn & Darwen, Blackpool; Greater Manchester; Cheshire and Merseyside; Newham; Yorkshire and Humber; Royal Borough of Kingston; Hackney; Peterborough, Fenland and South Holland, and Somerset.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “From the very beginning of this global pandemic, the British public have made tremendous sacrifices and played their part whenever they’re asked – social distancing, self-isolating, getting tested and now finally, getting the jab.

“We recognise just how challenging self-isolation is for many people and these pilots will help us find the best ways to support people and making it easier for everyone to keep doing their bit.”

Rachel Turner receives her Covid-19 vaccination at the Penny Street vaccination centre in Blackburn

Rachel Turner receives her Covid-19 vaccination at the Penny Street vaccination centre in Blackburn

The funding announcement comes amid increasing fears about the spread of the B1.617.2 variant, first identified in India.

Last week, the government said more than 3,400 cases have been identified in the UK.

While most cases are currently concentrated in the north west, particularly in Blackburn with Darwen and nearby Bolton, Public Health England said it was seeing “clusters of cases” across the country.

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “We are doing everything we can to send this virus into retreat and stifle the spread of new variants, and at the heart of this effort is our collaboration with local authorities.

“COVID-19 is a global disease but it requires local solutions as well as national ones, and I am hugely grateful for the efforts of the local authorities that are going to be involved with these pilots.

“Our partnership with local councils has seen us reach more positive cases of the virus than ever before, many of whom were people who could otherwise have unknowingly spread the virus to their loved ones.”

It comes as the Government announced on Sunday that 60.6 million first and second vaccine doses had been administered since December 8.

The figure includes 37.9 million people who have received a first dose, 72% of the UK population, and 22.6 million have had both (43%).

Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Rapidly targeting local outbreaks and supporting people to self-isolate when required is absolutely crucial to our continuing fight against coronavirus.

“These pilot schemes will provide further insight into what works best in supporting those who test positive and their contacts to do the right thing to protect themselves, their families and their wider communities.

“All councils continue to use their unique local knowledge and connections to reach out to areas where they are most needed, working with government in our joint national effort to stop the spread and keep case rates as low as possible as we look towards a return to our normal way of life.”