The English Test & Trace botch system reached a lower proportion of people at risk than at any time since its inception, official data revealed today.
The contact tracking program, which calls, text messages, and emails people who were close to someone who later tested positive for Covid-19 failed to reach 40 percent of these potentially infected cases in the week of October 22-28.
The 59.9 percent of contacts successfully reached and prompted to self-isolate was the lowest percentage since the system launched in May. It fell from 61 percent the week before and from 60 percent the week before, and has fallen from a high of 91 percent at the start of the program.
As England's second wave rumbles on and the country goes through its second statewide lockdown today, the system is crumbling under the sheer number of people who test positive and are referred to contact tracers.
The system, run by call centers owned by private contractor Serco, had to attempt to make 327,203 contacts in the last week when 139,781 people were referred after positive tests. That was more than any other week.
Due to its lackluster performance, 131,136 people who may have worn Covid-19 without their knowledge were never informed by officials.
The privately run botched system that goes by the name of NHS has encountered roadblocks repeatedly since its inception, including software bugs, staffing issues, lab residue, and poor public compliance. Most recently, Serco announced that untrained staff must be hired to remove bottlenecks.
An Oxford University statistics expert, Professor James Naismith, said he was not convinced that the test and trace had "a significant impact on the disease." Labor said it was "absolutely important". Number 10 uses the next 28 days of lockdown to fix the system.
In a glimmer of good news for the well-paid bosses at the top of the system – some of whom are making £ 7,000 a day – the time it takes to get people's test scores back has increased in the last week in any part of the world improved program. However, the total number of tests completed was lower than the previous week, although positive cases were higher.
Although the Test and Trace system recorded a record number of cases in the last week of October (137,180), the number of tests over the week fell from 421,615 the week before to 395,771.
Since the tests were not carried out – the reasons for this are not clear – the positivity rate has risen to 9.3 percent, for community tests to 10.9 percent.
This is a cause for concern as it means that a growing proportion of people who believe they actually have Covid-19 are doing so and the tests are having difficulty finding them all.
Professor Naismith said, “Until we have the ONS data for the last week tomorrow, there is no final assessment of the efficiency of the system for the last week.
'Based on what I see on this press release, I wouldn't expect to change my previous assessment that the system is not having a significant impact on the disease.
“I notice that the positivity rate in pillar two has increased over 10 percent. Pillar two tests the broader community.
& # 39; If the positivity is over five percent, there is an increased risk of underestimating the growth of the virus in the daily test numbers. This is well understood by scientists. I have no idea why, given the positive attitude in pillar two, we are operating pillar two so far below the government's capacity measure. "
The Ministry of Health today claimed success when it indicated that more than 10 million people have been tested for Covid-19 at least once.
Dido Harding, Chairman of Test & Trace, said: & # 39; Latest numbers show NHS Test and Trace is processing more tests and reaching more people, which means we're finding positive cases and helping break chains of transmission.
“We know there are areas where we need to improve, and we work tirelessly to make service faster and more effective every day.
& # 39; We have expanded capacity to over 500,000 tests per day to meet winter demand and further improve test lead times. Thanks to increased capacity and testing innovations, we have also been able to start regular testing of employees across the NHS and in nursing homes, which will begin tomorrow.
TEST NUMBERS FALL Despite more cases than ever before
Although the Test and Trace system recorded more positive cases in the last week of October than any other period since it was set up in May, the number of people actually tested has decreased.
In the week of October 22-28, 137,180 positive test results were recorded, an eight percent increase from 127,132 the week before.
But the number of people tested decreased.
It fell from 1,530,529 to 1,482,528 last week between October 15 and 21.
The reason for this is not clear, but there have been times when the Department of Health had to restrict testing because the labs were so overwhelmed with swabs that they couldn't process them quickly enough.
On the other hand, it is possible that fewer people will try to book tests, possibly because fewer people have the disease than at the beginning of the month.
As a result of declining but positive tests, the positivity rate rose from 8.3 percent to 9.3 percent within a week, and by 10.9 percent for community tests. This means that one in nine people tested that week tested positive.
Professor James Naismith of Oxford University warned: “If the positivity is above five percent, there is an increased risk of underestimating the growth of the virus in the daily test numbers. This is well understood by scientists …
"I have no idea why, given the positive attitude in pillar two, we are operating pillar two so far below the government's capacity measure."
& # 39; NHS Test and Trace is a crucial weapon against this virus, but not a silver bullet. I urge everyone to follow new restrictions and book a test if you have symptoms to keep each other safe during this time. & # 39;
In cases managed by local health protection teams, 97.9 percent of the contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week ending October 28, data from the health ministry revealed today.
For cases that are managed online or via call centers, the value was 58.5 percent.
About 26.4 percent of people who were tested in the week up to October 28th in England at a regional location, a local location or a mobile test unit – a so-called personal test – received their results within 24 hours. This was an increase of 22.6 percent in the previous week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised that the results of all personal tests would be available within 24 hours by the end of June.
He told the House of Commons on June 3 that he would "have all tests reversed within 24 hours by the end of June, with the exception of difficulties with post-tests or such insurmountable problems."
Scientists and officials said it was vital that the government fix their test and trace system during the month-long second lockdown that begins today.
According to experts, one of the main benefits of a brief lockdown would be to gain time to reset systems like contact tracing and local lockout rules so that they can cope better when they restart because fewer people are transmitting the virus.
Before the new numbers were released, Attorney General Robert Buckland said the month-long lockdown that began Thursday in England will serve to redouble our efforts to expand the NHS test and trace program.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said it was also important to increase the speed with which test results are returned.
"A lot of people receive it the next day, which is good, but there are still too many people waiting for days and we will keep working to speed it up," he said.
"We need to use this time not only to deal with the test and trace, but also to prepare for when we will get a vaccine."
He said any future vaccination program would prioritize those most in need "so we can avoid a stop-and-start scenario where we have to get in and out of lockdowns".
The NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across the medical system, today reiterated that the time gained by the lockdown should be used to improve test and trace.
The director, Dr. Layla McCay said: "If England's second suspension is successful it should ease the pressure on Test and Trace and give him some breathing space." The test and trace system must take this opportunity and take a step forward now, because the latest figures show how much work it still has to do.
& # 39; Positive cases continue to increase, but only 59.9 percent of their identified contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate last week, well below the 80 percent that scientists believe is necessary to make the system effective .
& # 39; Test results turnaround times are still longer than the end of June and it is imperative that this improves. The sooner people get their results, the greater the chance the virus will stop spreading.
"Bans are temporary and the goal should not only be to save lives and help the NHS provide as many services as possible, but also to cut the number of cases enough that the struggling testing and tracking system becomes more effective." . Our members tell us that it is important that the system improve quickly and significantly. Otherwise, a national lock simply kicks the can down the street.
"Lifting the lockdown without a viable regional alternative and a vastly improved testing and traceability system as we face the challenges of winter could be dire."
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