NHS Test and Trace records highest ever weekly number of positive cases

Four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England are still not being reached by the NHS Test and Trace system, at the same time as it recorded the highest ever weekly number of positive cases.

A total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 at least once in the week to October 21 – an increase of 23% in positive cases on the previous week and the highest weekly number since Test and Trace began at the end of May.

Some 60.3% of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached through the system in the week ending October 21 – up very slightly from 60.0% in the previous week, which was the lowest weekly percentage ever recorded.

For cases managed by local health protection teams, 97.0% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to October 21.

Contacts reached for all Test and Trace cases
Contacts reached for all Test and Trace cases

But for cases handled either online or by call centres, this figure was 58.1%.

Just 22.6% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending October 21 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.

This is up from 13.7% in the previous week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

He told the House of Commons on June 3 that he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.

Only 3.5% of people in England who used a home test kit for Covid-19 received their result within 24 hours in the week to October 21 – up slightly from 2.8% in the previous week.

Some 24.9% of people received the result of a home test within 48 hours, up from 14.1% in the previous week.

People receiving result of 'in-person' Covid-19 test within 24 hours
People receiving result of 'in-person' Covid-19 test within 24 hours

Of the 120,442 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week to October 21, 80.5% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

This is down slightly on 81.7% in the previous week.

Some 17.6% of people transferred to Test and Trace in the week to October 21 were not reached while a further 1.9% did not provide any communication details.

Mr Johnson admitted last week that the system needs to improve, adding that he shares people’s “frustrations” and said there needed to be faster turnaround times.

Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, said: “As the number of cases rise, we are seeing NHS Test and Trace processing more tests and reaching more people than ever before.

“We are expanding the reach of our service and improving performance in key areas such as turnaround times for tests as we continue to increase capacity, but we recognise there is more to be done.

“We are working hard to meet these increased demands whilst improving the service we offer to the public.”

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