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24 Nov, 2020 12:03

UK’s Covid-19 ‘Test and Trace’ system cost a lot of money but still needs improving, minister says after damning investigation

UK’s Covid-19 ‘Test and Trace’ system cost a lot of money but still needs improving, minister says after damning investigation

The British transport minister has slammed the government’s test and trace programme, saying it needs to do a lot better, after a Reuters report showed contact tracers failed to reach half of those potentially infected with Covid.

Speaking on Tuesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News the government was underwhelmed with the performance of their expensive test and trace system.  

“We have to get through this coronavirus and I'm afraid there has been no other option but to spend a lot of money,” Shapps said, adding, "we've said that we want test and trace to be a lot better.” 

The system was designed to contact family, friends and acquaintances who have come into contact with people that tested positive for Covid-19 in England. The contact tracers, who work predominantly from existing call centres, would then tell these people to isolate even if they weren’t experiencing any symptoms. 

The service, which reportedly cost £12 billion, has repeatedly come under fire for a series of high-profile errors and for consistently missing targets. 

Research from Reuters, published on Tuesday, claims the contact tracers only managed to reach and obtain details of contacts from two-thirds of the 767,074 people who tested positive for Covid-19 between May 28 and November 4. 

The same data shows that tracers reached just two-thirds of the 2.1 million contacts provided by those who tested positive. Meaning, at best, only half of the people who were potentially infected were told to isolate. 

Approximately half of those who were reached by test and trace and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 lived in the same household as the original patient. Under UK rules, those people should have already been isolating. 

Reuters also said that it has been taking a week on average to contact people who have been in touch with someone who tested positive for coronavirus, far too long for the intervention to be effective. 

Also on rt.com England’s Test and Trace head told to self-isolate by her own service

The government also introduced a Covid-19 app on September 24 to work alongside the existing test and trace system.

Last week, Baroness Dido Harding, the head of England’s NHS test and trace service, said she had been told to self-isolate after being contacted by her own app.

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