NHS Test and Trace misses 40% of contacts in a week – just above all-time low

The widely criticised NHS Test and Trace system is still failing to reach two in five coronavirus contacts and remains near a record low, new figures show.

Of the 347,575 close contacts of someone who has tested positive in the week to November 18, only 60.3% were reached and told to self-isolate.

This is down slightly from 60.7% in the previous week, and is also just above the all-time low of 60.1% for the week to October 14. It is well below the 80% target.

Positive Covid-19 cases in England fell 9% in the latest week, according to the figures.

For cases managed by local health protection teams, 99.0% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to November 18.

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For cases managed either online or by call centres, 58.8% of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate.

A total of 152,660 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to November 18, according to the figures.

This is the first time since mid-August that the number has fallen week-on-week.

It is down 9% on the previous week’s total of 168,250.

A total of 50.6% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending November 18 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.

This is up from 38.0% in the previous week.

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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.

He told the House of Commons on June 3 that he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.

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Of the 156,574 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week to November 18, 84.9% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

This is down slightly from 85.9% in the previous week, which was the highest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began.

Some 13.6% of people transferred to Test and Trace in the week to November 18 were not reached, while a further 1.5% did not provide any communication details.

The latest figures were released as local lockdown tiers were announced for local authorities in England, and a separate study found the virus is showing signs of levelling off.

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People will “see a difference” when England’s national lockdown ends next week, Rishi Sunak has claimed, despite an expectation that most of the country will be under Tier 2.

The Chancellor told Sky News: “Whichever tier you’re in I think people will see a tangible change.

“That said, things are obviously not normal and I can’t pretend that next week things are going to feel like they were before the spring.”

MPs are expected to vote on the proposed new tier restrictions in England on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest England’s Covid-19 infection rate may be levelling off during the lockdown.

Infection rates have increased in the East Midlands, but they seem to be falling across the rest of England, the ONS said.

An estimated 633,000 people (or 1 in 85) in private households in England had Covid-19 between November 15 and 21, according to the ONS.

This is the equivalent of around 1.16% of the population.

The figures represent a slight decrease from 664,700 people, or 1.22% of the population, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the period November 8 to 14.

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The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

The study also found that the highest infection rates in England remain among secondary school-age children and young adults.

Rates have decreased in adults aged 35 and above and levelled off for those aged two to school year 6, school year 12 to age 24, and ages 25 to 34.

The ONS said it has been unable to publish a new estimate for the average number of new cases per day of Covid-19 in private households in England, due to issues with data from one of the laboratories that processes swab results.


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