Easington MP Grahame Morris highlighted new analysis by the Labour Party has revealed that the Government’s disastrous Test & Trace system has failed to trace almost 250,000 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England.
The analysis, verified by the House of Commons Library, 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.
Yet Labour’s analysis shows that the Government’s contact tracing is going backwards across England, with just over half of close contacts (57.7%) reached last week. For the first time since the weekly Test & Trace figures were published, Labour found that the 80% target was missed in every single local authority and English region.
In the worst-affected regions, the failures of the system mean thousands of people who were in close contact with someone who tested positive were not reached and told to self-isolate last week. In the North East, a contact rate of just 57.2%, meant over 8,000 people were not contacted.
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.
Easington MP Grahame Morris said:
“The government have failed to deliver an effective Test and Trace system, which is far from the world-beating system promised by the Prime Minister. The Conservative Party instinctive opposition to publicly run services have seen local councils overlooked and billions of pounds handed yet again to failing outsourcing companies Secro and Sitel. Centralising Test and Trace, a task that requires local knowledge and insight was doomed to fail from the start.
The UK has paid a heavy price; an unparalleled economic shock, coupled with an excessively high death rate from Covid-19. The UK has lacked leadership in this crisis, and we can only look on in envy at countries like New Zealand to realise the immense difference confident and competent leadership can make in a crisis.
At this stage, we are trying to pick up the pieces of government failure. We must turn to accountable and trusted democratic institutions, with the local knowledge and expertise to turn the tide on the covid second wave. It is time for Ministers to properly fund and resource local government who have demonstrated their ability to tackle covid.”