Call centre operators carry out phone calls

NHS Test and Trace meets surge in demand

According to data from the first two weeks of January, NHS Test and Trace continued to manage to reach a high volume of cases and contacts, including a record-breaking start to the new year, as a result of improving turnaround times for tests.

During those first two weeks of 2021, NHS Test and Trace carried out more than 13% of the PCR tests conducted to date.

With 331,000 people receiving a positive result, NHS Test and Trace was responsible for identifying an estimated 47% of new infections.

Not only are record numbers of people being tested, but England’s contact tracing service has also successfully reached 86.7% of the people who received a positive test result, as well as almost 93% of their contacts - a significant step in continuing to break chains of transmission.

From January 7 to January 13, a total of 874,552 people who had either tested positive or were a recent close contact of someone who had tested positive, were reached and told to self-isolate. These were people who otherwise might have gone on to unknowingly infect others.

People can also have confidence that if they have symptoms and need a test, they can get one quickly and conveniently. NHS Test and Trace’s vastly expanded test site network now has more than 800 test sites in operation, including 448 local test sites.

This is further supported by continued work to ensure test results are also coming back more quickly. For this period of reporting, 85% of in-person test results returned the next day after the test was taken, compared with 63% during the previous week.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “NHS Test and Trace has delivered impressive results so far this year, not least in demonstrating its ever-increasing testing capacity.

“More than 13% of PCR tests conducted to date were carried out in the first 13 days of January 2021 – a phenomenal achievement for a national service that has existed for just 9 months. Week by week, people are able to access tests faster and more conveniently than before, underlining the continuous improvement being made to the service.

“While our testing capacity continues to grow as part of the government’s winter plan, NHS Test and Trace is also deploying hundreds of thousands of rapid tests to identify asymptomatic cases.

“Almost one million LFD tests were conducted in this reporting week and we will continue to innovate and evolve our testing capability.

“Around 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 don’t display symptoms, meaning you can infect others unknowingly. It is therefore crucial that we continue to follow public health guidance, and all play our part by following the rules and reducing our social contact to slow the spread of the virus.”

Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, added: “The pace of our response has been set by the virus and I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to ensure NHS Test and Trace is meeting this challenge. It has been a strong start to the year.

“More than 7 million people had been successfully contact-traced since the start of NHS Test and Trace, a testament to the service’s performance levels.

“There is no doubt that as we have built and scaled the service, we have learnt more and more about how to counter the spread of the virus.

“This is an overall national effort and no one organisation or team can do this on their own.

“With 290 local tracing partnerships now in operation, the combined local expertise of local authorities with the data and resources of NHS Test and Trace ensures that the service continues to grow from strength to strength.”

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