Health experts have expressed fears that the government’s Covid-19 test and trace programme is failing to reach over 30% of identified contacts.

The latest figures from the government reveal that, despite a precipitous rise in coronavirus infections, only 69.2% of contact were reached and asked to self isolate.

Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said the numbers were a cause for “serious alarm”.

“There is no sugar-coating it: these figures are cause for serious alarm. There has been a major increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 week-on-week, while at the same time, taking into account all contacts identified, only 69.2 per cent were reached and asked to self-isolate. This is especially concerning as the prospect of a tough winter looms ever larger, when staff are already exhausted and overstretched. We need to see a more effective test and trace programme, where a larger proportion of contacts are being successfully reached, to reduce the number of cases,” she said.

McCay said that while testing capacity had increased, many key workers were having problems getting tested.
 
“While there was a welcome increase in testing capacity this week, we were concerned that some people with symptoms of COVID-19, including healthcare workers and their families, had difficulty in accessing tests due to insufficient laboratory capacity. Our members, and especially in general practice, are concerned that their staff are having to self-isolate while awaiting access to tests, as well as test results for themselves and their families, which is putting a strain on the services they can provide. We need to see concrete evidence that the promised further increases in testing capacity and faster testing are achievable, and we also need immediate action to prioritise testing for key workers,” she said.
 
Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday faced scepticism in the House of Commons when he discussed prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans for a ‘moonshot’ strategy to introduce rapid coronavirus testing for millions on a daily basis using technology that does not yet exist. The plan is reported to cost in the region of £100 billion.

Responding to laughter from both sides of the House, Hancock hit out at “the naysayers” who have criticised the government’s attempts to implement a successful test and trace programme.

Date published: September 11, 2020

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