Coronavirus test and trace fails to reach a quarter of close contacts, say official figures

Henry Bodkin
·2-min read
Samples are taken at a coronavirus testing facility in Temple Green Park and Ride, Leeds - Danny Lawson/PA
Samples are taken at a coronavirus testing facility in Temple Green Park and Ride, Leeds - Danny Lawson/PA
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The NHS Test and Trace system is failing to reach more than a quarter of close contacts of coronavirus cases, with the success rate slipping significantly, new figures reveal.

Official data for the scheme – a key element in enabling the easing of the UK's lockdown – show that 73 per cent of close contacts were identified and told to self-isolate in the week up to June 24, compared with 82 per cent the previous week.

The figures also reveal that the system failed to achieve Boris Johnson's target of processing all current test results for Covid-19 by the end of June, although turnaround times are getting quicker.

Nearly three in 10 people who had a test at a drive-through or walk-through centre (76,340 tests in total) had to wait more than 24 hours for a result in the latest week for which there is data.

Coronavirus testing: UK daily figures. Auto updates.
Coronavirus testing: UK daily figures. Auto updates.

Meanwhile, four in 10 of those who had a test at a mobile testing centre waited more than a day, and only nine per cent of those who had completed a home testing kit received a result within a day.

Since test and trace was launched across England on May 28, 26,905 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with 73.9 per cent of those reached by staff and asked to share details of the people with whom they have come into close contact.

Just over 86 per cent of close contacts overall have been reached and advised to self-isolate. However, the proportion has been getting steadily worse over the last few weeks.

The proportion of people who tested positive and were then uploaded onto the test and trace system improved marginally between the third and fourth weeks, increasing from 72.3 per cent to 75 per cent.

Baroness Dido Harding said there were 'tireless efforts to continue to improve NHS Test and Trace' -  Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA
Baroness Dido Harding said there were 'tireless efforts to continue to improve NHS Test and Trace' - Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA

Baroness Dido Harding, the executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: "The data published on Thursday demonstrates the tireless efforts underway to continue to improve NHS Test and Trace.

"We have seen significant improvements in the time it takes to process test results, an important step to rapidly reach the contacts of those testing positive and ask them to self-isolate to prevent them spreading the virus further.

"I am very grateful to all those who have played their part and responded so well to the service."