England’s test and trace system has been hit with new problems, as there have been delays in contacting nearly 2,000 people infected with coronavirus, and one in seven home tests have failed. no result.
Unexplained ‘temporary infrastructure problem’ means nearly 3,000 more people than usual were transferred to the contact tracing system after testing positive for Covid-19 during the week ending 19 August.
Two-thirds of those people had been tested days or weeks earlier, meaning there was a delay in reaching them and their close contacts when they should have self-isolated.
The proportion of home test kits that did not produce a result that week has risen sharply, from 4% to 15% of the total, which equates to more than 18,000 tests.
Figures from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs also show that the test and tracing failed for a ninth consecutive week to reach its goal of contacting 80% of close contacts of people who test positive for Covid-19.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, admitted Thursday that the program was “not quite there” to achieve this goal. He told LBC radio: ‘One of the challenges is that we want to get NHS Test and Trace up to over 80% of contacts, get them to self-isolate – we’re a little over 75%, so we’re almost there but not quite there.
Outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel, who are paid around £ 200million between them to contact ‘non-complex’ close contacts, only reached 62% of those people last week.
The delays in reaching these contacts are increasing: one in four people have been contacted by the contractors after 48 hours, the highest number in the three months since the launch of the test and trace.
The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 decreased during the week, for the first time since the beginning of July. This despite a 2% increase in the number of tests performed. It is too early to draw conclusions as to whether this means community transmission of the virus is declining.
As the number of tests has increased, so does the time it takes for people to get their results. The proportion of test results received within 24 hours from Covid-19 testing centers has fallen to just over 40% in the past week, meaning most people were waiting more than a day.
Just over a third of tests performed at regional testing sites produced results within 24 hours of the week through August 19, up from 58% the week before.
Conservative peer Dido Harding, who performs tests and traces and was appointed this month as acting executive chairman of the new National Institute for Health Protection, said: “Every week we consistently reach the majority of people. tested positive and their contacts, and [we] have now reached nearly 300,000 people who may have transmitted the virus unknowingly.
“This country now has the capacity to test for the coronavirus and trace contacts on an unprecedented scale to stop the spread of the virus. We will continue to develop the service to reach more and more people and increase our testing capacity by expanding our network of testing sites and investing in new technologies.
She added: “I urge everyone to use NHS Test and Trace to help everyone get back to a more normal lifestyle. If you have symptoms, book a test immediately and if you are contacted by the service, follow the advice you receive. “