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Local authorities to take greater role in Covid-19 contact tracing

The Government has announced an overhaul of the NHS Test and Trace programme, which will see local authorities take a greater role in contact tracing.

Under the new system, local authorities will take over where the national team has failed to reach a resident within a certain time frame. In some pilot areas, this has involved local authority teams and voluntary partners visiting people at home.

Meanwhile, the national team – manned by Serco and Sitel – will reduce the number of contact tracers from 18,000 to 12,000. The remaining 6,000 tracers may be redeployed to ‘other campaigns’, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

This change comes as just 72.4% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to 29 July, the most recent period for which data has been published.

Baroness Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: ‘After successful trials in a small number of local areas, I am very pleased to announce that we are now offering this integrated localised approach to all local authorities to ensure we can reach more people in their communities and stop the spread of Covid-19.’

GPs have expressed frustrations with various stages of the Government’s approach to testing so far, including that many carriers of the virus are asymptomatic; patients could not receive their results without an email address, mobile phone or proxy; and that results only became visible to them last month.

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