Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

Boris Johnson says UK coronavirus tracing 'world beating' despite misses

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Mr Boris Johnson stuck by his assertion that the UK’s coronavirus tracing system is “world-beating,” even as data showed that it is failing to contact more than a fifth of the people it’s trying to reach.

Figures published Thursday (Aug 6) for the week up to July 29 show that of 4,642 people referred to the National Health Service’s (NHS) Test And Trace service after testing positive, only 79 per cent were contacted, a level that has stayed steady for over a month.

Those who were reached identified a total of 19,150 people with whom they’d been in close contact, but the system was only able to speak to 72 per cent of those to tell them they needed to isolate.

Quickly identifying infected people and their contacts and getting them to stay home is viewed by medical experts – and the government’s own advisers – as vital to allow the rest of the country to get back to work by, for instance, facilitating the reopening of schools.

The latest data will fuel fears that gaps in the system could enable a new wave of infections.

But Mr Johnson told reporters the system is working well.

“If you look at what we are doing, actually I think it certainly does fit that description of ‘world-beating,'” he said.

“I think I’m right in saying that we are now testing more, per head of population, than virtually any other country in Europe, certainly. In America they are testing a huge number of people.”

According to figures compiled by Our World In Data, the UK is carrying out 2 tests daily per 1,000 people. European countries performing more are Luxembourg, Denmark, Malta and Iceland.

Those people that the test and trace system does reach are often unable to name everyone they’ve been in close contact with.

An app that was supposed to help with that was promised in mid-May, but had to go back to the drawing board and is now only promised “shortly.”

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