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Health

UK PM Johnson says COVID trace scheme needs improvement after new low

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LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday England’s test and trace scheme needed improvement after a record low proportion of contacts of positive COVID-19 cases were reached in the latest weekly figures.

Just 59.6% of contacts of positive COVID cases were reached between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, statistics for England’s Test and Trace scheme showed - compared with the 80% target - with turnaround times for people receiving their results also getting slower.

“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,” Johnson said at a news conference.

British government scientists have warned that the test and trace scheme is relatively ineffective as the coronavirus spreads ever more quickly.

Recent weeks have however seen increases in the number of contacts of positive COVID-19 cases identified, with 251,613 identified in the latest week, up 15% on the previous week.

“It’s undoubtedly the case that test, trace and isolation becomes much more difficult to have an impact once numbers are high. So, it’s much more effective when numbers are low,” UK chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said.

“It’s very clear that there’s room for improvement.”

In the latest week, just one-third of in-person test results were received the day after the test was taken, compared with over two-thirds the week before.

Dido Harding, who runs the scheme, said that reducing turnaround times was an “absolute priority”.

Reporting by Alistair Smout and William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Stephen Addison

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