Baroness Harding, the Tory peer who leads the government’s much-criticised test-and-trace programme, should be removed and replaced, a senior Conservative MP has said.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and chair of the powerful parliamentary liaison committee, called for her to be given a “well-earned rest” and moved on to focus on “lessons learned”.
He warned of a “vacuum of leadership in test and trace, which is destroying public confidence and compliance”, it was reported on Saturday evening. He went on to criticise the handling of calls and data in a “spaghetti of command and control” at the top of the organisation.
Jenkin, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, is the most senior Tory to call into question the government’s running of test and trace, as concerns over its operations mount.
“Announcing fresh targets (now 500,000 tests a day by the end of October) does not instil confidence because people lack faith that there is a coherent plan. Instead ministers should see this as an opportunity to make changes; to show that we are all learning from experience.
“The change must be visible and decisive … the immediate priority is to fill the vacuum of leadership in test and trace,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
His sharp criticism came as it was reported that officials on the Downing Street Covid-19 taskforce have been asked to consider cutting the self-isolation quarantine period for those infected from 14 days to between seven and 10 days.
After a week in social isolation, people testing positive could be offered a second test, with the quarantine period ending as soon as a negative result is declared.
The proposal came after the prime minister was apparently told that 14 days’ isolation is a major barrier to widespread support for the rules.