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Coronavirus infections soar by 56% in a week as test and trace fails to hit targets

Matilda Long
·4-min read
Just a quarter of people who took coronavirus tests had their results within 24 hours, despite Boris Johnson promising it would be 100% by the end of June. (PA)
Just a quarter of people who took coronavirus tests had their results within 24 hours, despite Boris Johnson promising it would be 100% by the end of June. (PA)

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK has increased by 56% in a week, the latest data from the test and trace scheme shows.

In the week to 30 September, 51,475 people tested positive for coronavirus and increase from the previous week where 31,373 were confirmed to have COVID-19.

According to the figures, turnaround times for tests continue to fall well short of the government’s targets.

Just 25.7% of results of in-person tests were turned around in 24 hours. Boris Johnson promised this figure would be 100% by the end of June.

Some 68.6% of close contacts of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England were reached through the NHS Test and Trace system in the week ending 30 September, according to the latest figures.

This is the lowest weekly percentage since test and trace began, and is down from 72.5% in the previous week.

Government advisers say at least 80% of positive cases must be reached for the system to be effective.

Watch: Infection rate doubles in some parts of England after inclusion of 16,000 missed cases

Read more: Italy makes face masks compulsory outdoors all the time as cases hit five-month high

For cases handled by local health protection teams, 97.1% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to 30 September.

For cases handled either online or by call centres, 62.4% of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate.

Only 2.4% of people in England who used a home test kit for COVID-19 received their result within 24 hours in the week to 30 September.

This is down from 2.9% in the previous week, but up 1.8% in the week to 16 September, which was the lowest weekly percentage since NHS Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.

Some 26.5% of people received the result of a home test within 48 hours, down from 30.4% in the previous week.

There has been speculation that the government is considering implementing harsher restrictions to combat the spread of the virus, particularly in the hart hit parts of northern England.

On Wednesday, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland would be entering a two-week semi lockdown, forcing pubs and restaurants to close in Glasgow and Scotland and limiting the sale of alcohol elsewhere.

Read more: Coronavirus spread 'could get out of control' as UK sits 'at tipping point

Health minister Nadine Dorries suggested that stronger coronavirus restrictions were necessary because hospital admissions might be at a “critical stage” in around 10 days.

She said: “Those who now claim that further measures are not needed, will in about 10 days from now, when hospital admissions are at a critical stage argue that we didn’t do enough.”

She said the government “must do all we can” to prevent intensive care units becoming overwhelmed.

Liverpool City Region’s mayor Steve Rotheram said extra funding from chancellor Rishi Sunak will be needed for the north of England if tighter lockdown measures are imposed.

“When the country locked down in March, the chancellor’s actions showed that such significant measures required financial support on a similar scale.

“If it was right then, it certainly is now – so we need to be seeing local furlough schemes, business grants and financial support for the self-employed and those who cannot work from home.

“Otherwise the money spent earlier in the year to protect jobs and businesses… will have been wasted, because we haven’t done similar now.”

Rotheram said it was clear the spread of the virus “continues to go in the wrong direction” with infection rates increasing significantly and hospital admissions approaching levels seen in April.

New figures on Thursday showered there were three times more coronavirus deaths than pneumonia and flu combined in the first eight months of this year.

In England and Wales there were a total of 48,168 deaths due to COVID-19 between January and August – compared to 13,619 due to pneumonia and 394 deaths due to influenza, according to the Office for National Statistics.

COVID accounted for 12.4% of all deaths in this period, while 3.5% were down to pneumonia and 0.1% due to flu.

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