NHS test and trace row erupts as minister admits faults with the app | UK | News


Local Government minister, Simon Clarke, admitted the NHS test and trace system is not up to standard after he was quizzed on its effectiveness. It comes as Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if it reopens schools full-time without improving its test and trace system, according to a study published today. Mr Clarke was caught in a row over the findings but insisted the Government is working to improve the system.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Clarke said: “We always work to make sure that test and trace improves.”

“Our data is significantly more robust than that.

LBC host Tom Swarbrickt interjected: “It’s a lot to improve. Only 50 percent of all contacts?

“It’s not robust or world-beating, is it Minister?”

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Mr Clarke continued: “80 percent of people who test positive are contacted and of them over 75 percent of their close contacts are reached and told to self-isolate by the system.

“We recognise that this is a system which has to be as good as it possibly can be.”

Researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modelled the impact of reopening schools, combined with continuing to gradually ease social-distancing measures, under a range of scenarios.

If schools reopened full-time, 75 percent of people with COVID-19 symptoms would need to be diagnosed and isolated and 68 percent of their contacts would need to be traced, according to their study published in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.

The study should not be taken as a reason to keep schools shut but rather as “a loud call to action” to improve the test-and-trace system, said Chris Bonell, one of its authors.

Junior local government minister Simon Clarke said the system was constantly being tweaked to make it more effective, adding that officials were looking at whether there should be a physical follow-up if some people could not be reached by phone.

“I think we all accept that test-and-trace is a programme which needs to continue to improve. There is total humility in government about that,” Clarke told BBC Radio 4 in answer to a question about the study.

The latest official data, for the period July 16-22, showed that the test-and-trace system reached 81 percent of people who tested positive and that 81 percent of those it reached provided details for contacts. The system reached 75 percent of those contacts.

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