Who is the Baroness of Winscombe leading the Government’s Test and Trace system?

Dido Harding and her husband, Weston MP John Penrose.

Dido Harding and her husband, Weston MP John Penrose. - Credit: Archant

The Government’s system went live on May 28, with a North Somerset resident in charge of the operation.

Weston Hospital closed to new patients after a surge in coronavirus infections.

Weston Hospital closed to new patients after a surge in coronavirus infections. - Credit: Archant

The NHS Test and Trace system went live yesterday (Thursday), with Baroness Dido Harding of Winscombe in charge of the operation.

Dido Harding was appointed to lead the system, which aims to reduce the spread of the virus by tracing people who have come into contact with coronavirus sufferers.

Baroness Harding, who is married to Weston MP John Penrose, was previously the chief executive of Talk Talk before leaving her role to pursue ‘more activities in public service’.

While she was in charge of Talk Talk, hackers accessed the details of more than 150,000 customers, resulting in a record £400,000 fine for the company.

At a Government briefing earlier this month, Dido Harding spoke about being appointed head of the Covid-19 app. She said: “I welcome the opportunity to take on this role and help the brilliant efforts being made by the NHS and healthcare system to drive down infection rates and contain this virus.

“As we move to the next phase of the Government’s plan, I am confident that we can use the very best of our tech, research, and people power to help keep Covid-19 at bay.”

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The 52-year-old, who is currently the chair of NHS Improvement, will start her new and unpaid role immediately and will directly report to the prime minister and cabinet secretary.

Weston is rolling out the test and trace system in an effort to determine if the area’s recent spike in coronavirus cases spawned from the community or Weston Hospital.

The surge in infections resulted in the hospital closing to new patients.

Baroness Harding’s project has launched without the Covid-19 app, which is still enduring a trial period on the Isle of Wight.

The app’s absence caused the chairman to face criticism about the plans’ effectiveness against the spread of the coronavirus.

At the Government’s press briefing, Baroness Harding said: “This is a brand new service which has been launched at scale in a very short space of time.”

She said we all have a part to play and it will only succeed if everyone does their bit.

She added: “A lot of this is going to be about local coordinated action, from public health authorities, local government, the NHS, other civic leaders, to hunt out areas where the infection is spreading.”