People testing positive for Covid-19 in England at record high

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England has reached a new record high.

A total of 232,169 people tested positive at least once in the week to December 23, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

The number was up by a third on the previous week and is the highest weekly total since the service was launched in May.

The number of positive cases transferred to the contact tracing system increased by 52% compared with the previous week, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The fraction of people who had an “in-person” test and got their results within the Government’s 24-hour turnaround target time dropped to less than a fifth.

Interim executive chairwoman of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding accepted that turnaround times for tests had “temporarily increased” and described the festive period as “challenging”.

Just 16.9% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending December 23 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit received their result within 24 hours.

The percentage fell from 34.1% in the previous week and is the lowest since the week to October 14.

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.

Of the 211,914 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week to December 23, 85.8% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

That percentage fell from 88.6% in the previous week and is the lowest since the week to October 28.

DHSC said the Test and Trace service had prioritised making more tests available amid growing demand over the festive period coupled with the new, more transmissible variant of the virus.

Baroness Harding said: “Despite record numbers of people using NHS Test and Trace, we are successfully reaching record numbers of people who have tested positive and their contacts.

“Turnaround times have temporarily increased over the festive period as we deal with huge increases in demand, but we continue to make tests available to anybody who needs one, while our labs are processing ever greater numbers of tests.

“I am hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of the NHS Test and Trace team and our partners over this challenging festive period.”