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The public may be able to access data about how many coronavirus cases there are in their postcode area as soon as this week, HuffPost UK understands.
Ministers are pursuing plans to publish postcode-level data in the coming days or weeks.
Following a row over a “lost week” in locked down Leicester, when the status of a local outbreak was not clear to council and public health leaders due to a lack of information, all councils began to get access to granular postcode data on Thursday.
Now officials want similar data to be made public, with a first tranche slated for release as early as Thursday or Friday.
The move follows clashes over the data provided to leaders in Leicester ahead of the local lockdown imposed on Monday. Boris Johnson has said all local councils now have access to postcode level data to help them inform decisions about the virus.
But the data were only made available after Public Health England (PHE) regional directors wrote to local directors of public health on June 22 – more than three weeks after the first lockdown easing – to explain how to access the postcode data.
According to a Whitehall source, Leicester did not reply until Wednesday at which point the government confirmed and issued a data sharing agreement within six hours.
Access was given to local leaders the next day after the councils gave details of the individual who would be accessing the data.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson told reporters: “Since April, detailed local data has been shared by PHE with local areas and [on] June 11 an operational data dashboard was made available by NHS Digital, which includes counts of local tests, positives, and Test and Trace data, to give local authorities a clear picture in their local area.
“It was provided to directors of public health and councils.
“Last week we started sharing postcode-level data with all local authorities, including Leicester.”
But council chiefs said they would would still like “more precise” data, as it currently does not allow them to work out the proportion of positive tests, instead of just the total number.
Positive test data also does not include individuals’ places of work, which would allow councils to identify workplace outbreaks.
Ian Hudspeth, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “More data is starting to be shared with councils’ directors of public health, which is good news.
“It is clear that more precise, granular information is needed in order to help councils track down and isolate any specific outbreaks or clusters.
“This data needs to be provided promptly and shared quickly, with both district councils and upper tier [county-level] local authorities, to ensure the swiftest and most effective response.”
He called for town halls to use “proportionate” measures, with “the consent of the community”. to manage outbreaks. “This could range from controlling movement of people, to closing premises or public areas, if they are able to act swiftly as part of any local lockdown,” he added.