NHS Test and Trace missed third of borough’s coronavirus contacts

More than a third of people at risk of coronavirus in Knowsley have not been contacted by the NHS test and trace service, increasing the risk of a second wave of the virus.

The service is central to the government’s coronavirus strategy and is supposed to track down the contacts of known coronavirus cases and tell them to self-isolate.

But official figures, first reported by the Guardian, show the test-and-trace service has failed to reach 34.4% of people in Knowsley who had been in close contact with an infected person.

As a result, just under 100 people in the borough who should be self-isolating after being exposed to coronavirus are still able to leave their homes and meet other people and could be unwittingly spreading the virus further.

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Knowsley’s successful contact rate of 65.6% is one of the lowest in the country and well below the average for the North West of 83.2%.

The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has said at least 80% of contacts need to be traced and told to self-isolate if the system is to be effective, meaning Knowsley is at increased risk of further outbreaks.

Other boroughs in the Liverpool City Region have all reported successful contact rates above 80%.

It is not clear why NHS Test and Trace has struggled to contact people in Knowsley, but there appears to be a pattern across the region of more deprived areas having much lower contact rates.

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Some have suggested this is because people in these areas fear losing income if they are told to self-isolate and so do not respond to messages from Test and Trace.

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Knowsley’s director of public health, Dr Sarah McNulty, urged residents to get tested if they display symptoms and respond to NHS Test and Trace if contacted.

She said: “The test and trace service is an essential part of keeping coronavirus levels low in our community.

“We have been asking our residents to play their part to help to stop the spread of the virus by getting tested if they display symptoms.”

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Mobile testing units have also been deployed to the area following concerns about a rise in cases in Halewood last week.

Dr McNulty added: “Our test rates are high which is very encouraging as it's vital that people are tested if they display symptoms. I would encourage our residents to engage with the test and trace service if they are contacted.”

The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted for a comment for this story.