Test and Trace 'not fit for purpose' says Independent SAGE group

9 June 2020, 15:18

The group have advised the government completely overhaul the system
The group have advised the government completely overhaul the system. Picture: PA

The test and trace system in place to help the UK monitor the spread of coronavirus is "not fit for purpose," a report from the Independent SAGE group has said.

The group, which was set up after the official Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was criticised for transparency, has advised the government to completely overhaul the system.

Led by former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King, the independent group of 12 experts has said this is a "critical moment" to act or else "risk further spikes" of COVID-19.

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A current test and trace system in action to help the country emerge from lockdown is "severely constrained by lack of co-ordination, lack of trust, lack of evidence of utility," it said.

The prospect of tracing contacts of people who have come close to the virus and isolating for two weeks was also "clearly not happening."

According to the group's estimates, it would be "impossible" to contain the virus with just 25,000 contact tracers as at least 80% of people in contact with infected people need to be tracked down.

"The government has placed huge emphasis on their test, track and trace system in recent weeks, even labelling it 'world beating'," Sir David said.

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He added: "It is clear from our research that this simply isn't the case, indeed the system as it stands is not fit for purpose.

"We are calling on the government to urgently rethink their course to ensure that we have a system in place that will help and not hinder the country's recovery."

In response, the Department of Health and Social Care said: "NHS Test and Trace is a new service on a scale never seen before which is helping to control and contain the virus, and ultimately save lives.

"This report fails to acknowledge the recommendations it makes have either already been implemented or are underway.

"We have built up an entire testing industry in a matter of weeks and are now helping thousands of people book a test, isolate and share their recent close contacts – with anyone who needs a test able to get one.

"We are continuously making improvements to NHS Test and Trace, including sharing more data with local areas and healthcare systems.

"To further support the rollout we are providing £300 million, alongside comprehensive support, to assist councils in developing outbreak control plans for their areas."