More than a thousand people in Oldham missed by contact tracers

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020 2:09pm

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

More than a thousand people in Oldham who should be self-isolating after interacting with a positive coronavirus case are being missed by contact tracers, according to the town's MP.

Analysis by Labour has shown that in the week to October 7, less than 55 per cent of contacts in the borough were being reached by the national test and trace system.

It means that 1,049 people were not officially informed that they had been in contact with someone who had Covid-19, and may have not isolated for the required two weeks.

The MP for Oldham West and Royton, Jim McMahon, said that there were ‘hundreds’ of people in Oldham potentially spreading the virus without knowing it.

He added that not only was the programme failing to reach almost half of contacts, it was now ‘plaguing’ other people in the borough with calls.

“It’s no wonder the scientists advising government say that the £12 billion programme is only having a marginal impact,” he said.

“We’ve been under enhanced restrictions in one form or another for months now in Oldham, it’s getting ridiculous that the system is only reaching half of the contacts.

“Instead of doing what it should and reaching the contacts of positive cases, I’ve heard that the test and trace service is plaguing people with phone calls.

“I received an email last week to tell me that a constituent was basically being harassed by the test and trace service, and in the end had to block the number, as the calls were so persistent.

“I’m really not sure how government plans to get a grip on the virus when its flagship programme just isn’t doing its job.”

Mr McMahon added that the system needed to be reaching 80 per cent of contacts to ‘stand a chance’ of slowing transmission of the virus.

He also called for a move away from a centralised tracing system with private contracts, with all powers instead being transferred to local public health teams.

Currently ‘non-complex close contacts’ are those traced by the government’s online and call-centre contact tracing system, while ‘complex cases’ are those handled by local health protection teams.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the system last week, telling MPs that it has allowed for a ‘detailed picture’ of where and how the virus is spreading.

He said: “This week’s statistics show the testing capacity is up, testing turnaround times are down, and the distance travelled for tests is down too.”

Government figures show that 87,918 people were transferred to the contact tracing system between October 1 and October 7.

This includes approximately 11,000 cases that were delayed from the previous reporting period.

Nationally, 76.8 per cent of those people were reached by contact tracers, according to the statistics.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.


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