The Government announced with fanfare and flourish that we’d have a world-beating test-track-trace programme up and running by June 1.
Well, that date came and went, yet again a deadline missed through over-promising.
The problem is no politician, and especially those who present themselves at the daily press briefings, has any idea how their strategies are put into practice.
None is familiar with what’s actually happening on the ground, how to solve problems and how to correct mistakes.
A case in point is this test and trace programme.
In reality these government politicos deal in hot air.
They have only a superficial idea of how to make the crucially important test-and-trace operation work.
Do they know for instance that two-thirds of traced people don’t fully cooperate with tracers?
A report about a pilot scheme in Sheffield by Elisabeth Mahase in the BMJ revealed the gory details.
Even health and care workers didn’t properly play ball. Because of the NHS’s centralised approach and minimum-wage employees at call centres, the pilot team is concerned the test-and-trace schemes launched in England and Scotland could come up against severe obstacles.
It was the result of frustration felt by a group of retired doctors and public health experts at the absence of government action on contact tracing that led them to form the Sheffield Community Contact Tracers team.
They uncovered some surprising problems among people who weren’t sticking to safety precautions like social distancing and self-isolation.
Disappointingly they reported just one in five people returned phone calls, and that was only after a letter was delivered by hand to them.
Joan Miller, a retired public health doctor and a member of the Sheffield team, said: “Successful contact tracing takes meticulous hard work.
“In Covid-19, this is also going to take tight liaison and cooperation between agencies.
“The voluntary and community sector have a very valuable role to play here alongside statutory bodies, because they reach communities others can’t reach.”
Bing Jones, also a member of the Sheffield team and a former associate specialist in haematology, said that the “call centre, minimum-wage based proposal is fraught with difficulties”.
He added: “We need to beef up the notion of civic duty. There needs to be protocols and messaging which emphasises the need for people to do this thoroughly.
“There is no point in doing this half-heartedly. It is very, very important that the Government has clear messaging and information.
“We must encourage people and enable them to stay off work.”