There is no clear evidence that England’s costly test-and-trace system has been effective in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the British parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday.
But the parliamentary committee questioned if the NHS Test and Trace Service (NHST&T) has been good value for money despite its “striking” scale.
“Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project #TestandTrace can’t point to a measurable impact on the #pandemic & the promise on which this huge expense was justified – avoiding another #lockdown – has been broken, twice” @Meg_HillierMP👇🏽👓https://t.co/tzJb53mBEg
— Public Accounts Committee (@CommonsPAC) March 10, 2021
The service was allocated £37 billion ($51 billion) over two years, and had spent £5.7 billion ($7.9 billion) by November 2020, the committee said in its latest report.
“The Department of Health & Social Care justified the scale of investment, in part, on the basis that an effective test and trace system would help avoid a second national lockdown; but since its creation we have had two more lockdowns,” the report stated.
“There is still no clear evidence to judge NHST&T’s overall effectiveness. It is unclear whether its specific contribution to reducing infection levels, as opposed to the other measures introduced to tackle the pandemic, has justified its costs.”
Meg Hillier, a Labour MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said, “Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project, Test and Trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic, and the promise on which this huge expense was justified—avoiding another lockdown—has been broken, twice.”
She added that “British taxpayers cannot be treated by government like an ATM machine. We need to see a clear plan and costs better controlled.”
Responding to the report, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters on Wednesday, “Million and a half tests have been done yesterday and the team has built this testing capacity from nothing a year ago, so they’ve done an amazing job and I am incredibly grateful to them.”
Baroness Dido Harding, interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, who has been leading NHS Test and Trace, said the service is “essential in our fight against COVID-19.”
Defending the cost of the service, Harding said 80 percent of its budget is spent on buying and carrying out COVID-19 tests.
“NHS Test and Trace has successfully reached 93.6 percent of the contacts of positive cases—with 98 percent being contacted within 24 hours, and the contact tracing service has already reached more than 9.1 million cases and contacts, making a real impact in breaking chains of transmission,” she told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.