Hospital Dr News

Government struggling to deliver test, track and trace system for Covid-19

The Government is under increasing pressure over its plans for a contact tracing system to tackle the pandemic.

It follows ministers admitting that that the coronavirus smartphone app – being trialled on the Isle of Wight – will not be ready by 1 June.

Health leaders are concerned that if lockdown is lifted without an effective tracing system in place, the country will suffer a damaging second peak in coronavirus.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We are 10 weeks into the pandemic and still we await a clear and supported test, track and trace strategy. We know there is frenetic work underway to deliver this but we should not be in any doubt how crucial getting this right will be.

“The relaxation of restrictions based on scientific advice is the right approach but it must be accompanied by an effective test, track and trace strategy which enables us to monitor local spread of the disease. To achieve this we must have national, local and cross-agency involvement. Without this, we do face the risk of a second wave of infections.

“This is about saving lives and protecting the NHS: if we do not set up the right system, involving local agencies, we will put patients and NHS staff at risk.”

The Government has recruited 25,000 trackers who will identify the contacts of infected victims and seek to prevent outbreaks.

Similar schemes – founded on extensive testing – have controlled outbreaks in countries such as Germany, South Korea and Taiwan.

But Dickson is concerned that central government has not adequality involved local government in the planning and potential delivery.

He said: “I think it is only recently, to be brutally honest, that the government’s rhetoric changed to recognise that to get this test, track and trace system in place you not only need a national system, you not only need the app, but you also need to put at the centre of local plans local officials who understand contact tracing – they do it all the time.

“But you need to coordinate that.”

The Government wanted an effective contact tracing in place by 1 June so that it can start to open up schools and shops.

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