UK Covid Test and Trace system records worst of week

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NHS Test and Trace recorded its worst week for contact tracing, new figures reveal.

Only 62.6% of close contacts of people who tested positive for the virus in England were reached through the system in the week ending October 7.

This is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began, and it’s down from 69.5% the week before, the data showed.

The Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) said: “Since uncomplicated cases have a higher proportion of contacts that cannot be reached, this has contributed to the reduction in the overall percentage of contacts that have been achieved and -isolated since the launch of Test and Trace, from 91.1% to 62.6% last week. “

For cases treated by local health protection teams, 97.7% of contacts were contacted and asked to self-isolate in the week before October 7.

But for cases handled online or through call centers, only 57.6% of close contacts were reached and requested self-isolation.

The besieged Test and Trace has been repeatedly criticized, with MPs condemning it as a “failing” system.

Phantom Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth slammed the system and asked Matt Hancock about reports that Boston Consulting Group executives are being paid large sums of money “to run a service that does nothing but fail. aggravate”.

He said: “Today, new figures show that only 62% of affected contacts, or the equivalent of 81,000 unaffected people circulating in society – even though they have been exposed to the virus. This is another low record.

“And yesterday we learned that the consultants working on Test and Trace are being paid over £ 6,000 a day to run this failed service. in a week, this government pays these senior consultants more than they pay an experienced nurse in a year.

Labor has also called on the government to drop outsourcing giant Serco from the £ 12bn deal.

According to DHSC data, 89,874 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in England in the week of October 7, marking a 64% increase in positive cases compared to the previous seven days. This is the highest weekly number since the system was launched in late May.

There was a slight week-over-week improvement in processing times for test results. About 32.6% of people who tested for the coronavirus in England during this period at a regional site, local site or mobile test unit received their result within 24 hours.

This is an increase from 27.4% the previous week.

The Health Secretary defended the system, telling MPs on Thursday: ‘Thanks to NHS Test and Trace, we have built a detailed picture of where and how this virus is spreading.

“This week’s NHS Test and Trace statistics show test capacity is up, test turnaround times are down, and the distance traveled for tests is also down.”

But NHS Providers deputy managing director Saffron Cordery said it was “deeply regrettable” that the testing and traceability system is still not “fit for purpose” even as the UK grapples with to a second wave of coronavirus and that winter is on the way.

Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, the surge in the number of cases was proof that the system “has not succeeded”.

He said the number of cases cited by DHSC is an “underestimate” as data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests screening is missing a “significant number of people infected”, and only 74 % of those who test positive (67,511) are accessible via Test and Trace.

On average, each infected person identifies three close contacts, two of whom live with, he said, adding: “We have no idea whether this is correct or not, as no effort has been made to find out. . “

Of the contacts identified, the system only reaches about two-thirds of them, he said. On top of that, the system is still too slow, only reaching about 60% of close contacts in 24 hours. There is also little evidence for the effectiveness of isolation.

“So for 100 infected people, only 50 are tested positive, only 75 close contacts are reached and invited to self-isolate. Only 25 of these people do not live with the person who tested positive, less than 14 of this group are reached within 24 hours, less than five of them could isolate themselves.

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