Test and Trace ‘is not a cure on its own’: System only offers ‘second line of defence’ against coronavirus, senior health official warns
- Four in ten contacts of those tested positive for virus still not being contacted
- At least 113,881 people potentially exposed to virus last week were not reached
- Critics say it’s because system is struggling to cope under increased demand
- First line of defence is face mask wearing, washing hands and keeping distance
Figures reveal thousands of people are still going untraced as officials warn the Test and Trace system is only a ‘second line of defence’ against coronavirus,
The Test and Trace system is only a ‘second line of defence’ against coronavirus, a senior health official warned as figures revealed thousands of people are still going untraced.
Four in ten contacts of those who tested positive for the virus are still not being contacted, according to the latest figures.
It means at least 113,881 people who were potentially exposed to the virus were not reached and told to isolate in the last week measured.
The system has come under intense scrutiny from critics who say it is struggling to cope under increased demand. But despite Boris Johnson’s pledge for a ‘world-beating’ Track and Trace system, a senior insider said it could never ‘make the virus go away’ singlehandedly.
The source said: ‘The first line of defence is our own behaviour, the face mask wearing, washing our hands and keeping your distance.
‘Test and Trace is definitely the second line of defence, but if you look the world over, on its own, it is not enough.
‘It is only as good as all of our social behaviour through the process.’
A total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the week to October 21. This was an increase of 23 per cent on the previous week and the highest weekly number since Test and Trace began at the end of May.
Some 60.3 per cent of close contacts of positive cases were reached through the system in the week ending October 21 – up very slightly from 60 per cent the previous week, which was the lowest ever recorded.
Government experts have said the proportion of contacts traced needs to be 80 per cent for the system to be effective.
For cases managed by local health protection teams, 97 per cent of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate during the same week.
But for cases handled either online or by call centres, this figure was just 58.1 per cent.
Test and Trace is not good enough on its own, a senior health official has said. Face mask wearing, washing our hands and keeping your distance is still the first line defence
Director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: ‘Far too few contacts of those carrying the virus are ever reached which has hampered the system’s effectiveness from the outset. And as infections rise the challenges become even greater.’
It comes as some 19million people have installed the NHS coronavirus app since its launch a month ago – roughly 40 per cent of the population in England and Wales, where the app is available.
On testing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that by the end of June the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.
But this was the case for just 22.6 per cent of those tested in England at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit, up from 13.7 per cent the previous week.
Only 3.5 per cent of people in England who used a home test kit for Covid-19 received their result within 24 hours in the week to October 21 – up slightly from 2.8 per cent in the previous week.