Remaining time in lockdown must be used to improve test and trace

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Responding to the latest NHS test and trace figures, Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said:

“At this point in the new lockdown period, we would hope to see signs of improvement in the test and trace figures, but instead, contacts are being successfully traced for only two out of every three people who test positive for COVID-19 – although these people are at least being reached a bit more quickly than in recent weeks. These new figures tell us two important things: the number of positive cases is rising steeply, up 11 per cent week on week; and despite our reliance on the test and trace system to help bring us out of lockdown, thousands of contacts continue to slip through the net every day, inadvertently contributing to further spread of the virus.  

“If we are to avoid extending, or worse, repeating the national lockdown, it is vital that the test and trace programme sees rapid and significant improvement. Hope is growing for the roll out of a vaccine, but we must keep in mind that it may be some time before it can be distributed widely in the population, and there are numerous logistical hurdles to get over first.
“That means a robust test and trace programme remains a key element of curbing the spread of the virus, alongside adherence to social distancing and other infection control measures. We urge the Government to use the remaining weeks of lockdown to make the progress needed to make test and trace the world-beating system that was promised. Looking at the success rate of cases handled by local health protection teams, who reached 98.9 per cent of close contacts, that should include greater local involvement.”

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