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Test and trace would not prevent second coronavirus wave, as ‘system identifies a third it needs’

UK News

The UK’s coronavirus test and trace system would not stop the feared second wave because it can only find a third of the people it needs, a top civil servant admitted last night.

Alex Cooper, who looks after two of the five pillars of the test process, said it could only identify 37 per cent of the total contacts it needed to be fully effective.

The senior official admitted in an industry briefing, the number needed to be higher to make the system work properly.

Forms filled in as part of the system to help test and trace people who could be infected

Forms filled in as part of the system to help test and trace people who could be infected

Forms filled in as part of the system to help test and trace people who could be infected

Matt Hancock has describe the text and trace system as 'world-beating' in press conferences

Matt Hancock has describe the text and trace system as 'world-beating' in press conferences

Matt Hancock has describe the text and trace system as ‘world-beating’ in press conferences

He said: We need to be finding roughly half of the the people that have got Covid so that we can keep R down if test and trace is going to work.’

Concerns over the effectiveness of the system will come as a blow to Government heads who are desperately trying to encourage people to return to work in an effort to save the economy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week he was hoping things would be nearly back to normal in time for Christmas. 

Mr Cooper, in an update to industry figures reported by the Telegraph, Essentially where we sit with test and trace is we are identifying around a third of the the people we really should be finding.

A contact message from NHS Test and Trace

A contact message from NHS Test and Trace

NHS contact tracing app on a mobile phone

NHS contact tracing app on a mobile phone

Those who need to be contacted are sent messages by handlers who try to find other contacts

The UK has recorded 40 coronavirus -associated deaths today, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths during the pandemic to 45,273

The UK has recorded 40 coronavirus -associated deaths today, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths during the pandemic to 45,273

The UK has recorded 40 coronavirus -associated deaths today, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths during the pandemic to 45,273

‘So the main challenge for us now is to make sure that we can test more and identify those index cases.”

Government figures released last week suggested that the tracing service was finding 77 per cent of those who tested positive to get details of their contacts.

Those associated individuals would then have to self-isolate until their own test came back.

The Department of Health said last night that the service relied on people ‘ playing their part’.

Blackburn with Darwen Council imposed local restrictions in an effort to avoid lockdown

Blackburn with Darwen Council imposed local restrictions in an effort to avoid lockdown

Blackburn with Darwen Council imposed local restrictions in an effort to avoid lockdown

It came as the Independent said the system had failed to reach over half of contacts named by infected residents in outbreak-hit Blackburn with Darwen.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was also said to have bowed to pressure to release the names of positive tested people to their local councils.

The Observer said he was expected to let local authorities have the identities of those infected to help them fight the pandemic on the ground

BRITAIN’S OUTBREAK IS STILL SHRINKING BY 5% A DAY – BUT R RATE MAY BE ABOVE 1 IN LONDON AND THE SOUTH WEST, SAGE SAYS 

Britain’s coronavirus outbreak is still shrinking by up to 5 per cent a day, according to official data – but SAGE has warned the R rate could be above one in the South West of England and London

The Government’s scientific advisory panel revealed the UK’s current growth rate – how the number of new cases is changing day-by-day – is between minus five and minus one per cent.

It is more confirmation the crisis is still petering out and suggests the reopening of pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons on July 4, dubbed ‘Super Saturday’, has not triggered a resurgence yet.

But the figures show the UK’s outbreak is now be shrinking at a slightly slower speed because the growth rate has crept up from last week’s rate of minus 5 per cent to minus 2 per cent per day.

Scientists today said they were ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the data, which they say shows ‘there is no indication the epidemic has gotten out of hand as a result of the easement’ of lockdown.

But they warned Brits ‘must stay completely vigilant’ because a lag in the statistics means it is at least two weeks behind and it could take until next week for any spike to become visible. 

Separate figures released by SAGE show the virus’s reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is still between 0.7 and 0.9 as a whole for the UK, meaning it hasn’t changed in two months.

But SAGE admitted the R could be as high as 1.1 in the South West of England, where Britons have been flocking for stay-cations to enjoy the coastline of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, and in London, where pubs have been rammed with customers after reopening earlier this month.

For England as a whole, the R is slightly higher than the rest of the country, with the reproduction number hovering between 0.8 and 1. Keeping the rate below one is considered key because it means the outbreak is shrinking as not everyone who catches it passes it on.   

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