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Covid: Test and Trace still struggling to reach close contacts as rate close to all-time low

Coronavirus infections increase by 11% from previous week, new figures show

Kate Ng
Thursday 19 November 2020 13:06 GMT
An NHS Test and Trace worker
An NHS Test and Trace worker (AFP via Getty Images)

The number of close contact of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England who were reached through the NHS Test and Trace system in the week ending 11 November remains close to the all-time low.

Some 60.5 per cent of close contacts of those with positive infections were reached, out of 313,771 identified. This is unchanged on the previous week, and barely above the all-time low of 60.1 per cent for the week ending 14 October.

For cases managed by local health protection teams, 98.9 per cent of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate. This drops to 58.9 per cent of contacts reached and told to self-isolate in cases managed online of by call centres.

The latest figures released by the Department of Health and Social Care also showed that cases of Covid-19 rose 11 per cent in England in the week, with the proportion of people testing positive staying steady.

167,369 people tested positive for coronavirus between 5 November and 11 November. Of the 156,853 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week, 84.9 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

This is a decrease from 85.6 per cent in the previous week, which was the highest weekly percentage since the Test and Trace system was launched.

Some 13.7 per cent of people transferred to Test and Trace in the week were not reached. 1.4 per cent did not provide any communication details, said DHSC.

Downing Street defended the “colossal” achievements of NHS Test and Trace, but conceded that there was room for improvement.

A spokesperson for No10 said: “We are testing more people per head of population than any other European country and that will grow thanks to our increased testing capacity.”

But “we accept there are still improvements to be made, and we will continue to work on it”, they added.

Baroness Dido Harding, interim executive chairwoman of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “This week we have seen more tests processed and more positive cases contacted than ever before, which means we are finding the virus where it hides and reducing its spread.

“As the number of people using Test and Trace continues to increase, so the service is constantly evolving and improving.

“This week sees the introduction of changes to the contact tracing programme to reduce calls to the same family household, which should reduce duplicate calls, as well as the introduction of Sunday collections of tests from priority boxes by the Royal Mail, which should improve home test turnaround times.

“Meanwhile, our commitment to increasing capacity continues, with our announcement this week of two new ‘mega labs’ that will see testing capacity grow by 600,000 a day by next year, while generating local employment.”

Additional reporting by PA

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