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Privatised Covid test and trace system continues to fail, data shows

LATEST figures revealing further failures in the privatised test-and-trace system raised pressure on the government today to hand over responsibility to more experienced local NHS teams.

Just 60.3 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England were contacted in the week ending November 18 — the second lowest level in the system’s record.

This is down from 60.7 per cent in the previous week, and is just above the all-time low of 60.1 per cent recorded in the week to October 14.

By comparison, for cases managed by local NHS health protection teams, 99 per cent of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to November 18.

We Own It campaigns officer Pascale Robinson said in response to the data that Chancellor Rishi Sunak should have provided more funds to local health teams to take over the test-and-trace system.

He said: “This is another week of shameful failure from the privatised national test, track and trace.

“Despite having months to fix the problems, it’s still not identifying people’s close contacts or asking them to isolate quickly enough and it’s putting us all at risk.

“At the same time, contact tracing run by local public health teams is consistently outperforming the national system.

“That’s because it is public health teams that actually have the experience to do this work effectively, not Serco or Sitel.

“And that’s why Rishi Sunak should have announced more funding for local public health teams to take over the system in the spending review.

“The public health community are rightly up in arms about the decision not to do this, with the Association of Directors of Public Health Director saying this is ‘incomprehensible’.

“It’s not too late for the government to get this right, but it is absolutely vital if we’re to get out of this pandemic safely. The way to do that is to scrap Serco and Sitel and to put local public health teams in charge of the system instead.”

Of the 156,574 people transferred to the test-and-trace system in the week to November 18, 84.9 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

This is down slightly from 85.9 per cent in the previous week, which was the highest weekly percentage since test and trace began.

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