Less than half of the people referred to NHS Test and Trace after positive tests for coronavirus have provided details of their close contacts, revealing shocking data revealed today.
Of the 20,968 people assigned to England’s 25,000 contact tracers, only 10,058 actually provided information that could track the tracers (48 percent).
In this week’s report, the Department of Health said that the people who were unable to provide contact information were those who had only come in contact with strangers, such as on the bus.
The staggering number suggests that an app – which automatically pairs people’s phones so that it can alert people who don’t know each other – may be needed for contact tracking to work perfectly.
Of the infected people who successfully contacted themselves, two-thirds of them were able to provide details about one or more close contacts.
Between June 17 and the launch of the system at the beginning of the month, 15,225 confirmed coronavirus patients were successfully reached by contact tracers.
But more than one in three – 5,167 people – were “unable” to provide details of a person they may have come into close contact with. Another 5,062 people who tested positive could not be reached at all by contact tracers – who call, text and email someone 10 times a day to reach them.
Today’s update showed that a total of 134,893 people – people who tested positive and their contacts – were in contact with NHS Test and Trace within three weeks.
One scientist said today’s statistics are “worrying” and can only be solved with better public participation – not the government.
Data from the Department of Health shows that less than half of people who have referred to NHS Test and Trace so far have actually provided details of all the contacts they had before being diagnosed
The Department of Health today admitted in its report that many people who were successfully approached by Test and Trace but did not provide details on contacts simply did not know how to reach people they were around.
It said: ‘The number that was unable to provide recent close contacts refers to people who were successfully reached by NHS test and trace, but were unable to provide details of recent recent contacts to pass for further contact tracking (e.g. recent close contact with strangers on the bus). ‘
Until last week, the NHS was working on a mobile app that would automatically record and pair the smartphones of people who came close to each other.
This would have allowed technology to keep up with people’s contacts and overcome the obstacle that people couldn’t provide details about strangers.
But the app was abandoned after “ technical challenges ” during a trial on the Isle of Wight, which showed it could spot only four percent of the iPhones nearby.
Since the launch of test and trace, only two thirds of the people who answered the phone have actually provided contact information for people they came close to. When the number of infected people who cannot even be contacted is taken into account, the number of people with Covid-19 who provide useful information falls below 50 percent
A bar graph shows the percentage of people transferred to the contact tracking system between May 28 and June 17
Data show how quickly infected patients were reached and were asked to provide details about their close contacts
Figures show the proportion of close contacts achieved and asked to isolate themselves
Revealed: Most contacts were reached within 24 hours, but it took more than three days for a fraction of contacts
UP TO 10,000 CARE PROPERTIES AND STAFF GET COVID-19 TESTS MONTHLY
Up to 10,000 nursing home residents and staff in England receive coronavirus examinations every month, the government announced today.
Health officials have launched another surveillance program hoping to track how Covid-19 spreads through nursing homes across the country.
Health Minister Helen Whately – who is under fire for seeming to blame scientific advisers for the catastrophe that has occurred in nursing homes – said the results will help plan for nursing home preparation in the future.
Care homes have been battered in the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in the UK and more than 14,000 residents have died with the virus in England and Wales alone.
Ministers have been accused of overlooking care homes in a battle to supply the NHS, and bosses have repeatedly called for regular testing at their facilities.
The new test program will be conducted in 106 Four Seasons nursing homes, testing thousands of residents and staff for past and present contamination.
It comes after it was reported today that health chefs plan to transform dozens of empty stores into walk-in coronavirus testing centers in Britain.
Many people who do not drive cannot use drive-in test centers, which means they can only test at home unless they are in the hospital, but they are in high demand.
The government now hopes that an app from Apple and Google, which officials said was also inappropriate, will improve enough to be usable.
Professor Keith Neal, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, said today’s statistics were worrying.
He said, “There are a number of issues with the system at the moment – these can only be resolved by members of the public, as it requires individuals to take appropriate action to reduce the spread.
The number of people believed to have Covid-19 is much higher than the number that tests positive – more people need to come forward for tests that are now much more easily accessible.
“One in four positive people is out of reach – this is surprising and disturbing – these people have to provide details to get the result of their test and they have a responsibility to be reachable, they have to insulate at home so easily anyway to grab.
“The percentage of contacts approached has fallen from 90 percent to 80 percent, but this is still not a bad figure.
It is unclear how much contact tracking is done by the national system compared to Public Health England. Identifying contacts in an outbreak in a care home is much easier, residents and employees are easy to reach.
“Every contact that is contacted has stopped a possible transmission chain.”
Justin Madders, Labor’s shadow health minister, said: “Not allowing a quarter of those who test positive to come into contact with the” world beat “system within three weeks is not good enough and needs urgent action.
“Expert opinion shows that in order to defeat this virus we need a fully functioning testing and tracking system, so these latest figures are still a major concern the week before the lockdown measures are further relaxed, especially without a working app.
“It is amazing that hundreds of people fail to submit their data to the system in the first place. That should be a simple thing that can be solved.
“Ministers should consult with the public on how they will urgently address these real and serious issues.”
NHS Test and Trace Chairman, Dido Harding, said: ‘The strength of NHS Test and Trace lies not only in our thousands of trained tracers, but also in the audience playing their role, providing us with the essential information we need to protect the spread of the coronavirus, our families and communities and ultimately save lives.
So as the latching measures ease, I continue to urge all those experiencing symptoms – a high temperature, a new, ongoing cough, or loss or change in your sense of smell or taste – to immediately book a test.
“We also need everyone contacted by NHS Test and Trace to respond to our calls, texts or emails and to follow the advice.
“As we have seen from the beginning of this pandemic, we will all work together to stop the spread of the virus in our communities, and that will remain true as the country opens up again.”