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B.1.351 (Commonly Known as South African) COVID Variant - When did Councils learn of the Enhanced Surge Testing

Mark Gale made this Freedom of Information request to Public Health England

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Dear Public Health England,

On Monday 1st February at the 5pm Downing Street Briefing, Matt Hancock repeated the News of a number of cases of B.1.351 strain had been found that could not be traced to incoming travel from South Africa.

I have found the public statement reported around 1:40pm on Monday 1st February from PHE, that much of the media started to push out shortly after.

Can you answer the following questions?

1. When did you inform Merton Council of this news, requiring them to surge enhanced test residents and workers within an area of Merton.
2. Was this on a one by one basis with each council, or a conference call / zoom meeting etc talking to all the areas eg: Ealing, Haringey, Merton, Woking (Surrey County Council?)
3. If it was on a one by one basis, do you know the order that councils were told of the issue.
4. Merton Council did not make ANY comment on social media platforms or their own website on Monday 1st February at all, leaving residents worried, confused, and in the dark until the following day. Where other councils were ahead of the game - eg even testing on the Monday, is there a reasonable explanation why Merton Council could not be in the same position as other councils in commenting, and responding to your announcement.

Thank you in advance for your help, stay safe.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Gale

FOI, Public Health England

OFFICIAL
Dear Mark Gale,

We acknowledge receipt of your email and request for information, which will be treated as a request for information under statutory access legislation.

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Public Health England (PHE) is responsible for providing guidance and advice to government and front-line services for all aspects of public health. It is a designated Category 1 responder organisation under the Civil Contingency Act and this specifically includes the COVID-19 response, providing clinical expertise and wider public health advice and guidance across national and local government, the NHS and third sector. As such, you may experience delays when making statutory information access requests during the pandemic.

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FOI Team
Public Accountability Unit
Public Health England
[Public Health England request email]
Tel: 020 8327 6920
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

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FOI, Public Health England

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL
Dear Mark Gale,

Please find attached Public Health England's response to your request.

FOI Team
Public Accountability Unit
Public Health England
[Public Health England request email]
Tel: 020 8327 6920
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE uk

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