stock image of Coronavirus testing
stock image of Coronavirus testing

I questioned the Secretary of State for Health in Parliament about the Government’s failure to trace thousands of close contacts of people who’d tested positive for COVID-19 in Liverpool and Knowsley.

Not only is the Government massively failing to reach it’s target of reaching 80% of close contacts in our local authorities (only reaching 59% in Liverpool and 57% in Knowsley), but they’re actually reaching fewer people than they were last month (3.5% fewer in Liverpool and 9% in Knowsley).  This desparately needs sorting out now we’ve entered Tier Three lockdown restrictions.

Labour Party analysis, verified by the House of Commons Library, has revealed that the Government’s test and trace system has failed to trace almost 250,000 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England.

This reveals a deeply flawed contact tracing system unable to handle the increase in Covid-19 cases as the country enters a second wave. It shows that last week alone, almost 80,000 close contacts of people who tested positive were not reached and notified.

A contact is defined as someone who has come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Reaching 80% of close contacts is considered one of the key means of slowing transmission of Covid-19.

On 9th September, the Prime Minister announced ‘Operation Moonshot’, promising a Test and Trace system which would “allow people to lead more normal lives, without the need for social distancing.” Labour’s figures show that in the four weeks since that statement, over three quarters of local authorities saw their contact tracing rates decline.

The revelations raise further questions about the UK’s tracing system, already under scrutiny due to the Conservative government’s choice of designing a centralised, privatised system contracted out to Serco and Sitel. SAGE minutes from 21st September and published this week highlight how the billions put into the Test and Trace system has only had a “marginal” impact on slowing infection rates.

With some local councils reaching almost 100% of contacts, Labour has called for contact tracing to be handed over to them as part of a two-to-three week circuit break – designed to reverse the trend of infections and hospital admissions.

You can read my question and the Health Secretary’s unclear answer in full here. 

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