Coronavirus: Test and Trace contact tracing rate at lowest since launch

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

The percentage of close contacts reached through the Test and Trace system has hit a new low.

Some 69.2% of contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England were reached in the week ending September 2, according to new figures from the Department of Health and Social Care.

This is down slightly from 69.8% in the previous week - and is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace was launched in May.

The figures are a fresh blow for Boris Johnson, who on Wednesday revealed ambitious plans for quick, daily tests on a mass scale as part of so-called Operation Moonshot.

An NHS Test and Trace form for people to fill out in case they need to be contacted and asked to get a test. Credit: PA

This week, ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan spoke to a Test and Trace NHS 119 call handler, who made alarming claims about the system.

Speaking anonymously, she said: "It's absolutely shambolic. For instance today I've only been able to put one person through after taking 20-odd calls." "The site is just not allowing anyone to complete and get an appointment. It's not good and they should be ashamed of themselves.” The call handler continued: "It's totally frustrating, absolutely frustrating. It's frustrating for them because they're not getting any further."

The new figures show that, for those cases handled either online or by call centres, 61.3% of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate.

By contrast, for cases handled by local health protection teams, 96.6% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to September 2.

Watch Health Editor Emily Morgan's report as a 119 call handler slams the Test and Trace system as 'shambolic, frustrating and unfit for purpose'

Tory chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee Greg Clark called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to “get a grip” of the testing situation.

Mr Clark said: “I think this needs his personal grip. He referred to the need for him to increase testing capacity from 1,000 a day to 100,000 a day.

“This is an urgent matter, it needs a grip before the autumn bites, the autumn-winter bites.

"Will he commit by the end of the month to make sure anyone who has symptoms of Covid can get a test at a reasonable place, convenient to their home?”

Responding to Mr Clark, Mr Hancock said ensuring everyone with symptoms can get a test close to their home “is of course my goal”.

He told MPs: “It is my goal for that to happen immediately.

“And the challenge is both to increase the capacity, a subject that both (Mr Clark) and I have discussed at length and I know he’s a strong supporter of, it is also a matter of making sure that that capacity is used by the right people."

UK health secretary Matt Hancock has said he is 'concerned' at the rising number of cases Credit: PA

A total of 9,864 new people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to September 2, according to the figures.

This is an increase of 43% in positive cases on the previous week, and is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched.

Also since the launch, 293,452 close contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have now been reached through the tracing system and asked to self-isolate.

This is 78.8% out of a total of 372,493 people identified as close contacts.

The remaining 79,041 people (21.2%) were identified as close contacts but were not reached.