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Coronavirus contacts missed in tracing ‘fiasco’

Latest figures ‘extremely worrying’ as further restrictions are set to be imposed on large gatherings

11 September, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Town Hall chiefs have unveiled plans to create a Covid-19 testing site within the borough’s borders

ALMOST a third of all coronavirus contact tracing attempts in the borough have been unsuccessful, in what has been described as a “complete fiasco”.

Figures released this week showed that 153 people in Islington may have been unwittingly exposed to Covid-19.

The NHS contact tracing system, which was set up on May 28, is designed to let people know that they may have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.

Pubs, restaurants and other social settings have been ordered to collect names and phone numbers from people who enter their premises.

People diagnosed with the virus are contacted and asked to detail where they have been and who they have been in close contact with.

The system then charts those who may have been exposed and asks them to isolate.

NHS figures show 114 identified cases of coronavirus in Islington between May 28 and August 23, but 23 people from that list were not contacted.

Islington Council health chief Janet Burgess

The system has been even less successful at identifying close contacts of people with coronavirus, with 130 out of 435 not contacted at all. In total, at least 153 people in Islington who may have been exposed to the virus between May and August were not contacted by the service.

The news comes as further restrictions were this week imposed on large gatherings following a spike in detected cases across the country.

Council health chief Janet Burgess told the Tribune the data was “extremely worrying”.

“The government scheme is a complete fiasco,” she said. “We can’t really have any faith in it. Those people may have been exposed to the virus and have in turn passed it on to others. It’s extremely worrying.”

She added: “We’re going into winter, and this is a respiratory disease. That means things are likely to get worse. And we’re getting mixed messages coming from the government.

“I saw what happened in care homes earlier in the pandemic. If they had been tested then I think the story would have been very different. If we’re going back into that sort of situation again, where anyone who needs a test isn’t getting one, then it’s a matter of grave concern.”

The council’s Covid-19 Prevention and Resilience action plan was unveiled at a Town Hall meeting yesterday (Thursday), and included steps to protect care homes and adult social care settings in particular.

The plan also includes creating a testing site within the borough’s borders to increase contact testing engagement amid reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles to get a test.

“The council has been helping people to get tested, particularly people working in the care sector,” said Ms Burgess.

“One of the problems is that there isn’t anywhere in Islington that you can go to get tested. We haven’t really found anywhere suitable. That will be where our efforts are focussed as a council.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working. We are processing over a million tests every week and the service continues to reach the majority of those testing positive and their contacts, reaching 80 per cent of contacts where contact information was available.

“NHS Test and Trace relies on everyone playing their part. We all need to get a test if we have symptoms, share details of our contacts if we test positive and self-isolate when asked to do so.”


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