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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

NHS Test and Trace told a record number of people to self-isolate over Christmas week

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  • More people than ever before reached and told to isolate over festive period
  • Number of positive cases up by 24.0% compared with previous week
  • Test and Trace succeeded in reaching 84.9% of people who tested positive and 96% of their contacts
  • Proportion of in-person test results received within 24 hours has almost doubled since previous week
  • New lab partnership with Queen Mary University further boosts capacity

NHS Test and Trace is successfully reaching more people than ever before, despite the anticipated challenges of operating over the festive period. In total during the week of 24 to 30 December, 684,747 people who had tested positive, and their contacts, were reached and told to self-isolate, many of whom might otherwise have unknowingly spread the virus to their loved ones. This is an increase of 124,126 compared with the previous week.

The service, which remained open every day over Christmas and the new year, successfully managed the high levels of demand to ensure tests were available to anyone who needed them, while continually reaching a high percentage of those people who had tested positive and their contacts.

In a further boost to NHS Test and Trace laboratory capacity, a new London University partner laboratory operated by Queen Mary University of London has come online. It joins the HSL and UCL (Health Services Laboratories in partnership with University College London) laboratory and Imperial College laboratory as part of DHSC’s partnership agreement with a London Testing Alliance of 4 university labs, which will increase testing capacity by tens of thousands over the winter. NHS Test and Trace now has the capacity to carry out more than 700,000 tests per day, compared with 2,000 just 9 months ago.

While fewer people requested a test during the Christmas week of 24 to 30 December (down 29.0%), the proportion of positive cases has risen rapidly for the fourth consecutive week. A record 269,886 of the people who tested positive were transferred to contact tracers, up by 27.0% compared with the previous week and 84.0% higher than the week of 5 to 11 November. 228,999 people who tested positive (84.9%) were reached and asked to share information about their recent contacts, compared with 183,048 (86.4%) the previous week.

People who tested positive identified a significantly higher number of contacts – 493,573 compared with 407,685 the previous week. The number of contacts identified is now more than double the number at the end of November. Continued improvements such as enhancing the contact-tracing website, reducing repeat calls to households, and increasing numbers of call handlers have created a resilient service able to cope with ever-increasing demand.

Turnaround times for test results have improved since the previous week, with 63.0% of in-person test results returned the next day after the test was taken, compared with 45.0% the week before.

People can have confidence that if they have symptoms and need a test, they can get one. NHS Test and Trace’s vastly expanded test site network now has more than 775 test sites in operation, including 400 local test sites. The median distance travelled for a test is just 2.6 miles, compared with 5.1 miles as recently as September.

Over the past months, the government has put in place the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities created in British history. More than 54 million tests have been conducted in the UK so far and more than 5 million people have been reached and told to self-isolate by contact tracers.

Alongside the existing symptomatic testing service, NHS Test and Trace has stood up a significant programme to pilot new testing technologies to proactively test asymptomatic individuals without symptoms and to improve the service’s detection of positive cases.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

As demands on NHS Test and Trace continue to grow week on week, it is a testament to the strength of the service, and the commitment of our hardworking staff, that performance did not falter over the Christmas period.

Over Christmas, anyone who needed a test could get one, ensuring that those at risk of spreading the virus were reached and told to self-isolate. This is a huge achievement for which the entire service should be incredibly proud.

With around 1 in 3 people having COVID-19 without symptoms, and a more transmissible strain of the virus in circulation, asymptomatic testing is a key part of the government’s COVID-19 winter plan, in addition to the huge testing network we have put in place for symptomatic testing. There are now hundreds of thousands of rapid tests being conducted to identify asymptomatic cases in care homes, across the NHS, critical infrastructure workplaces and food manufacturers, as well as by local authorities through the new community testing programme.

Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said:

The dedicated men and women working for NHS Test and Trace have performed an incredible feat this Christmas. By working together, they ensured that anyone who needed a test could get one, test turnaround times were reduced, and the vast majority of people who tested positive and their contacts were successfully reached and told to self-isolate.

We are committed to keeping the country safe and saving lives and I am hugely grateful to all of those who sacrificed their time over the Christmas period to ensure the service remained up and running every single day.

Although we begin 2021 amid tough restrictions across the country, we also start the year armed with a stronger and more efficient service than ever before.

Testing

During the week of 24 to 30 December, 2,500,731 tests were conducted for pillars 1 and 2 in the UK.

As of 30 December, more than 54 million tests have been processed in the UK in total since testing began, more than any other comparable European country.

For this reporting period, 63.0% of in-person test results were received the next day after the test was taken, compared with 45.0% reported in the previous week. 93.6% of pillar 1 test results were made available within 24 hours. This has remained broadly consistent since NHS Test and Trace began.

The NHS Test and Trace laboratory network processed samples as normal with the same level of capacity, including on bank holidays, to ensure continuity of service.

Tracing

Tracing performance has remained high with 84.9% of cases and 92.3% of contacts reached last week. The proportion of contacts reached within 24 hours as a proportion of those reached decreased slightly to 96.8%.

269,886 positive cases were transferred to contact tracers between 24 and 30 December, 84.9% of whom were reached and told to self-isolate, compared with 86.4% the previous week.

Between 24 and 30 December, 493,573 people were identified as recent close contacts, with 96.0% who had provided communication details reached and told to self-isolate. Since NHS Test and Trace launched, 86.0% of close contacts for whom contact details were provided have been reached.

Over the past few months our teams have been working incredibly hard to make the contact-tracing service as effective as possible and NHS Test and Trace has now reached more than 5 million people.

Background information

The weekly statistics from the 31st week of NHS Test and Trace show in the most recent week of operations (24 to 30 December):

  • a total of 2,500,731 tests were conducted for pillars 1 and 2, a decrease of 14% compared with the previous week
  • the proportion of contacts reached by tracing service remains consistent at 92.3%
  • 84.9% of people who tested positive and were transferred to the contact-tracing system were reached and asked to provide information about their contacts, compared with 86.4% the previous week
  • 96.0% of contacts where communication details were given were reached and told to self-isolate, compared with 96.4% the previous week
  • 63.0% of in-person test results were received the next day after the test was taken, compared with 45.0% of tests the previous week (England only)
  • 93.6% of pillar 1 test results were made available within 24 hours, compared with 93.0% the previous week
  • 33.0% of in-person test results were received within 24 hours after the test was taken, compared with 16.9% the previous week
  • 79.9% of satellite tests were received within 3 days, compared with 66.7% the previous week
  • since NHS Test and Trace launched, over 4.6 million contacts have been identified, and 86.0% of all contacts where communication details were given have been reached and told to self-isolate
  • NHS COVID-19 app users in England, who have been instructed to isolate via the app, will be able to claim the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment, providing they meet the eligibility criteria. This comes as Apple revealed that the NHS COVID-19 app was the second most downloaded free iPhone app on its App Store in the UK this year and has been downloaded more than 21 million times

Source: www.gov.uk

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