The UK prime minister says he shares “frustrations” over test and trace, but insisted that his centrepiece measure for tackling the CCP virus had made “colossal” achievements. He emphasized that the system would be more effective if people complied with requests to self-isolate.
Contact-tracing is reaching a lower percentage of people than at any point, according to the latest figures, and the turnaround times for tests have also reached record lows.
Responding to questions on the latest figures, Boris Johnson said during an Oct. 22 press briefing, “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we do need to improve it.”
However, Johnson said that the achievements of the system “have been colossal”.
He said that the UK has carried out 26 million tests in total—more than any other European nation—and was on track for a 500,000 per day capacity by the end of the month.
The contact-tracing system was helping “a bit”, said Johnson. “The thing depends on people self-isolating and breaking the transmission. It is helping a bit already to break the transmission.”
“If you test positive, then you’ve got to self isolate,” he said, before reminding people that people on low incomes following the rules are entitled to a £500 bursary, and those who break the rules face a £10,000 fine.
A study in September found that just 11 percent of people were self-isolating after being told to through the tracing app.
That study by Kings College London was published a few days before it became a legal requirement to isolate on being contacted.
Just 18 percent of people with symptoms were self-isolating at the time, according to the research.
The trace and test system is reaching just six out of ten close contacts according to the latest weekly figures, which also showed record numbers of in-person tests are not being returned within the promised 24-hour window.
Government scientific advisers have previously said that the system needs to be reaching eight out of ten close contacts of those testing positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The system only approached that level in the summer.
However, the system is now struggling to expand in step with rising numbers of infections.
The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance accepted that there was “room for improvement” in the system.
However, he noted that the approach isn’t suited to higher levels of infection.
“Test, trace, and isolation becomes much more difficult to have an impact once numbers are high,” said Vallance. “It’s much more effective when numbers are low.”
“It’s really important to concentrate on numbers of contacts, isolation as quickly as you can, and getting things back as quickly as you can,” he said during a Downing Street briefing on Oct. 22. “Ideally, you get the whole process done within 48 hours.”
In the latest figures, just 15 percent of in-person tests were able to deliver results within the 24-hour goal—less than half of the 32 percent achieved in the previous week.
In June, 94 percent of these tests were received within the 24-hour window.
A total of 101,494 people tested positive for the CCP virus in the week prior to Oct. 14 according to the Test and Trace data, a 12 percent increase from the previous week, and the highest yet.