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NHS test and trace system ‘still not good enough’ says health leader

Test and trace system falls short in latest figures

NHS

The latest figures for the NHS’ test and trace system show that the programme is still falling short, with only 75% of those testing positive for the coronavirus being contacted.

According to data from between 18 and 24 June, only 75% of the 6,183 people who had a confirmed case of the coronavirus during this time were contacted by NHS Test and Trace staff. This means a further 1,544 people who tested positive, as well as potentially thousands of their close contacts, were not traced and contacted via the system.

Of the 75% of people contacted via the system, 3,497 provided details for one or more of their recent close contacts, meaning test and trace staff were able to identify a further 23,028 people who could have been exposed to the virus.

However, of those close contacts identified, under three-quarters were actually reached and asked to self-isolate. According to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE), 80% of the contacts of people with the virus need to self-isolate to prevent the infection rate rising.

“We are some way from where we need to be. We are not reaching one in four people who’ve been transferred to the contact tracing system, and from those we do contact, a quarter of their close contacts are not reached. The expert view is that this is simply not good enough to maintain safety,” said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

“We urgently need to identify those who could be spreading the virus and we need to do this more effectively and more quickly than we are doing now. If not, more lockdowns are inevitable and it is possible our health service could be overwhelmed by another spike,” he added.

Fears of a resurgence of cases have emerged as pubs and restaurants open this weekend, albeit with social distancing measures in place. Health leaders have warned that without an effective test and trace system, cases could spike as lockdown eases, potentially leading to the NHS being overwhelmed.

Adding to these concerns is the surge in cases in the city of Leicester, which has become the first area to experience a localised lockdown in the UK. Non-essential shops and schools have closed across Leicester city and neighbouring areas, as part of new restrictions imposed after cases of coronavirus rose by almost 950 in a fortnight, according to Leicester city council.

On 6 July, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee are also set to quiz Baroness Harding of Winscombe, the chair of NHS Improvement and Simon Thompson, managing director of the NHS COVID-19 App and NHS Test and Trace, on the government’s recent change of strategy in relation to test and trace.

The evidence session is set to investigate the effectiveness of the current test and trace system strategy, including the impact of the recent decision to reduce the role of the app.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

3rd July 2020

From: Healthcare

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