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Test and trace system leaves 26,000 contacts untraced in the North West

New analysis by the Labour Party has revealed that the Government’s disastrous test and trace system has failed to reach almost 250,000 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England.

The failures of the system mean tens of thousands of people who were in close contact with someone who tested positive were not reached and told to self-isolate last week. In the North West, the worst-affected region, over 26,000 people were not contacted.

Keir Starmer has called on the Government to introduce a circuit break to tackle the second wave of Covid-19 by getting on top of testing and handing over control of track and trace in the North West to local authorities.

A contact is defined as someone who has come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Reaching 80% of close contacts is considered one of the key means of slowing transmission of Covid-19.

Yet Labour’s analysis shows that the Government's contact tracing is going backwards across England, with just over half of close contacts (57.7%) reached last week. For the first time since the weekly test and trace figures were published, Labour found that the 80% target was missed in every single local authority and English region.

The revelations raise further questions about the UK's tracing system, already under scrutiny due to the Conservative Government's decision to design a centralised, privatised system contracted out to Serco and Sitel. SAGE minutes from 21 September published this week highlight how the billions of pounds put into the test and trace system has only had a “marginal” impact on slowing infection rates.

With some local councils reaching almost 100% of contacts, Labour has called for contact tracing to be handed over to them as part of a two-to-three week circuit break – designed to reverse the trend of infections and hospital admissions and “to rectify some of the mistakes the Government has made”.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said:

“We are at a decisive moment in our efforts to tackle coronavirus, and these figures are a new low for a test and trace system on the verge of collapse.

“Tests are taking too long, leaving NHS and keyworkers vulnerable. And the abysmal contact tracing system has failed to reach a quarter of a million close contacts of people with the virus. The Government is wasting hundreds of millions on a system that doesn’t seem to function or even use basic common sense.

“We are beyond the tipping point with the test and trace system. Without our local councils working day in day out to pick up the pieces, contact tracing would have all but collapsed.

“The Prime Minister must act now to reverse this trend. That is why Labour is calling for a short, sharp circuit break to fix testing, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Notes

28 May to 7 October 2020: Cumulative non-complex close contacts identified:

Total contacts identified

Total contacts reached

Percentage reached

Not reached

617,939

372,458

60.27%

245,481

Source: NHS Test and Trace weekly reports

  • In the week ending 7 October, almost 80,000 contacts of people who tested positive were not reached:

30 September to 7 October 2020: Non-complex close contacts identified:

Total contacts identified

Total reached

Percentage reached

Not reached

189,678

109,490

57.72%

80,188

Source for comparison: NHS Test and Trace weekly reports 28 May to 30 September

  • Regional analysis shows that in every region last week, thousands of close contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 failed to be traced and told to self-isolate:

Region

Contacts

Reached

% Reached

Not reached

East Midlands

18,173

10,675

58.7%

7,498

East of England

7,777

4,596

59.1%

3,181

London

14,331

8,450

59.0%

5,881

North East

18,905

10,823

57.2%

8,082

North West

61,489

35,257

57.3%

26,232

South East

9,497

5,795

61.0%

3,702

South West

7,619

4,669

61.3%

2,950

West Midlands

17,106

9,745

57.0%

7,361

Yorkshire and Humber

33,622

19,308

57.4%

14,314

Unknown

1159

172

14.84%

987

Total

189,678

109,490

57.72%

80,188

Labour’s analysis shows that in the four weeks after the Prime Minister’s statement, contact tracing rates declined in 116 local authority areas (77%)


Week ending 07 Oct 2020:

Region

Local authority

Contacts

Reached

% Reached

Not reached

North West

Blackburn with Darwen

1214

614

50.6%

600

North West

Blackpool

608

357

58.7%

251

North West

Bolton

2613

1385

53.0%

1228

North West

Bury

1612

939

58.3%

673

North West

Cheshire East

1180

728

61.7%

452

North West

Cheshire West and Chester

1357

837

61.7%

520

North West

Cumbria

1101

706

64.1%

395

North West

Halton

939

533

56.8%

406

North West

Knowsley

1979

1129

57.0%

850

North West

Lancashire

7764

4527

58.3%

3237

North West

Liverpool

8229

4848

58.9%

3381

North West

Manchester

11799

6037

51.2%

5762

North West

Oldham

2319

1270

54.8%

1049

North West

Rochdale

2192

1230

56.1%

962

North West

Salford

1964

1167

59.4%

797

North West

Sefton

2014

1214

60.3%

800

North West

St. Helens

1415

856

60.5%

559

North West

Stockport

2161

1333

61.7%

828

North West

Tameside

1570

1010

64.3%

560

North West

Trafford

1784

1049

58.8%

735

North West

Warrington

1229

741

60.3%

488

North West

Wigan

2588

1654

63.9%

934

North West

Wirral

1858

1093

58.8%

765

North West

TOTAL

61,489

35,257

57.3%

26232

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