BBC News
BBC News 5 Aug 2020

Test and trace system “not a failure” insists head of service in England


The Head of England's test and trace system for coronavirus has denied that it is a failure, after more heavy criticism.

As schools prepare to reopen and parents start returning to work, scientists are warning that if test and tracing isn't improved significantly, there could be a second wave of the virus by December that's worse than the first.

Sophie Raworth presents BBC News at Ten reporting from health editor Hugh Pym.

As trials for the newest version of the coronavirus app continue, more data reflects a failing system in England for human contact tracers.

Some 69.4% of close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus were reached in the week ending 26 August, down from 77.1% in the previous week and the lowest weekly percentage since the system's launch.

A number of contacts were not able to be identified as the contact details for some of those who tested positive for coronavirus were unavailable or incorrect, or they did not respond in some of the local hotspots in England.

Almost half of the nearly 16,000 people with coronavirus missed by the 'Test and Trace' system still have not had their contacts traced, the Health Secretary has admitted.

An 'IT failure' within Public Health England - a problem with an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum size - has been blamed by ministers for a delay in the reporting of 15,841 COVID-19 cases in England.
Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens calls on the government to improve the test and trace system so students can come home for Christmas.

She was also asked by Sophy Ridge about reports that former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre could be the next head of Ofcom, while ex-Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore could be the next chair of the BBC.

Ms Stevens said: "I think the whole idea of announcing appointments before a process has actually taken place is a bit strange.

"The public will be wondering where the government's priorities are in this - why are they worrying and interfering in an open appointment process?"
The government is paying individual private sector consultants million-pound wages to work on its test and trace system, Sky has discovered.

Some executives from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) helping the government set up and run its testing system are being paid day rates of around £7,000 - equivalent to an annual salary of around £1.5m.

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