Test and trace records highest ever weekly COVID cases as 40% of contacts not reached

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06:  Covid-19 testing is carried out at an NHS Test and Trace facility at Wavertree Sports Park on November 6, 2020 in Liverpool, England. The government are piloting loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) Coronavirus testing technology, offering all Liverpool residents quick-result tests to identify who has COVID-19 and asking them to isolate. If this technology is successful it could lead to an end to lockdowns as a method to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
COVID-19 testing is carried out at an NHS Test and Trace facility at Wavertree Sports Park in Liverpool. (Getty)

A total of 167,369 people tested positive for COVID-19 in England at least once in the week to 11 November – the highest weekly number since NHS Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.

However, only around 60.5% of close contacts of people who tested positive for COVID in England were reached through the test and trace system, latest government figures show.

The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommends that at least 80% of close contacts of positive cases must be reached for test and trace to be effective.

The latest test and trace figures represent an increase of 11% in positive cases on the previous week, where the number stood at 149,253 – itself an 8% increase from the week before.

Data shows that 9.6% of people tested had a positive result, similar to the 9.7% reported the previous week.

This is unchanged on the previous week, and is also just above the all-time low of 60.1% for the week to 14 October.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/11/12: An advert for the NHS test and trace app seen on a bus stops electronic display in London. (Photo by Dave Rushen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
An advert for the NHS Test and Trace app seen on a bus stops electronic display in London. (Getty)

For cases managed by local health protection teams, 98.9% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to 11 November.

For cases managed either online or by call centres, 58.9% of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate.

Watch: PM’s self-isolation ‘shows Test and Trace is working’

Of the 156,853 people transferred to the test and trace system in the week to 11 November, 84.9% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

This is down slightly from 85.6% in the previous week, which was the highest weekly percentage since test and trace began.

Some 13.7% of people transferred to test and trace were not reached, while a further 1.4% did not provide any communication details.

A total of 38.0% of people who were tested for COVID-19 in England in the week ending 11 November at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.

This is up slightly from 37.5% in the previous week.

Boris Johnson – who had to self-isolate after receiving an alert from test and trace – had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks via video link from 10 Downing Street during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Mr Johnson is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who has since tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson was forced to self-isolate after receiving a Test and Trace alert. (Getty)

He told the House of Commons on 3 June that he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.

Only 3.9% of people in England who used a home test kit received their result within 24 hours – down slightly from 4.5% in the previous week.

Some 43.3% of people received the result of a home test within 48 hours, down from 57.7% in the previous week.

A member of the public uses a swab before passing it to a waiting member of Test and Trace at the mass and rapid testing centre for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 at a Tennis centre in Liverpool on November 6, 2020. - To avoid extending the lockdown, Johnson is pinning his hopes on an ambitious new programme of Covid testing to detect and isolate infected people, starting with a city-wide trial launching in Liverpool today. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
A member of the public uses a swab before passing it to a waiting member of NHS Test and Trace at the mass and rapid testing centre in Liverpool. (Getty)

While defending the “colossal” achievements of NHS Test and Trace, Downing Street nevertheless acknowledged improvements could be made.

A No 10 spokesman said: “We are testing more people per head of population than any other European country and that will grow thanks to our increased testing capacity.

“We accept there are still improvements to be made, and we will continue to work on it”.

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