NHS Test And Trace Under Fire After Number Of People Contacted Falls

No.10 warns public “must play their part” – or risk the system being made compulsory.

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Downing Street has warned that the public “must play their part” in cooperating with NHS Test and Trace after fresh figures showed the number of people reached by the service had fallen week on week.

Latest statistics published on Thursday showed that in the seven days to June 17 a total of 82% of close contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 were reached and advised to self-isolate – down from 91% in the first two weeks of the service.

The weekly data also showed that overall 26% of people had not been reached after testing positive for Covid-19, up from 22% in previous weeks.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said “further measures” such as making the system compulsory would be considered if the statistics failed to improve.

NHS Test and Trace, predicted by Boris Johnson to be a “world beating” service, uses phone calls, texts and emails to contact everyone who tests positive for the virus.

It also advises those who test positive to give up details of any “close contact”, defined as those who have spent more than 15 minutes at a distance of less than 2m, who should in turn self-isolate for a fortnight.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he does not rule out ending the currently voluntary nature of the system, but HuffPost UK understands that officials are also looking at offering extra cash help to encourage workers who fear loss of income from self-isolation.

The PM’s spokesman stressed that NHS Test And Trace was a new large scale service and the figures showed it had “now reached more than 100,000 people who may otherwise have knowingly spread the virus”.

But he added: “The public must play their part by providing vital information we need to protect our families and communities. We would urge those contacted by the service to follow the advice they receive.

“If we do find that significant numbers aren’t following isolating instructions we will consider if further measures are required. We are not ruling [compulsion] out [...]

but we need to keep seeing numbers going up.

“Test and trace are working to make the service more efficient and accessible by doing things like opening at local testing centres, increasing translation services and concentrating calls at times that work best for the public. We have always said this is a service that will improve over time.”

Labour shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “To have a quarter of those who test positive not contacted three weeks in to the ‘world beating’ system is not good enough and urgently needs to be addressed.

“Expert opinion shows that to defeat this virus we need a fully functioning test and trace system, so these latest figures still raise major concerns the week before lockdown measures are eased further, especially without a working app.”

The PM has also pledged that by the end of June all tests – apart from postal tests and some exceptions – should be returned within 24 hours. At present the majority are returned within a day and 90% within 48 hours.


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