UK government reports NHS Test and Trace reaching record number of people
As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, a GOV.UK press release has revealed that more than 550,000 contacts were reached by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate in the week before Christmas.
From 17 to 23 December, 181,910 people who tested positive were successfully reached. This is 58,398 more than the previous week.
It also states that cases are being reached more quickly, with 80.2% reached within 24 hours, compared with 77.1% the previous week.
Listing the reasons for these improvements, the press release claims that they were brought about by improving the contact tracing website, introducing more effective systems for contacting members of the same household and increasing the number of local authority tracing partnerships.
WHY IT MATTERS
Due to the emergence of a more transmissible strain of coronavirus, the service has prioritised creating a more robust contact tracing system, as well as making more tests available.
In aiding the national contact tracing system, the NHS COVID-19 app became the second most downloaded free iPhone app on its app store in the UK in 2020.
The press release also reveals that as of 16 December, the NHS COVID-19 app in England and Wales has been downloaded 20,739,925 times and 775,191 QR posters have been generated through the GOV.UK coronavirus QR poster service.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Joining the global coronavirus vaccine race is the newly-approved Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being rolled out today. Eighty-two-year-old dialysis patient, Brian Pinker became the first to receive it this morning at Oxford's Churchill Hospital.
In the latest attempt to combat COVID-19, global leaders have shown a heightened concern for containing the new, faster-spreading strain. Prime minister, Boris Johnson has warned that regional restrictions in England will get tougher and a nationwide lockdown is likely.
Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has announced a new lockdown until the end of January, with schools in Scotland remaining closed until February.
Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer has called for an immediate lockdown in England within the next 24 hours to tackle the escalating numbers.
ON THE RECORD
Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said: "Despite record numbers of people using NHS Test and Trace, we are successfully reaching record numbers of people who have tested positive and their contacts.
"Turnaround times have temporarily increased over the festive period as we deal with huge increases in demand, but we continue to make tests available to anybody who needs one, while our labs are processing ever greater numbers of tests.
"I am hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of the NHS Test and Trace team and our partners over this challenging festive period."