Coronavirus: Scientists warn of 'significant gaps' in England's Test and Trace data

·2-min read

"Significant gaps" in the data make it impossible to know if the government Test and Trace programme is reducing the spread of coronavirus, researchers have said.

The number of people currently isolating with symptoms in England is unknown, while no routine information is collected on whether people isolate for the full two weeks.

The claims come from scientists who have a developed a new health dashboard for the disease, launched today.

They said gaps in the availability and quality of data mean it is very difficult to know how well the system is performing.

Professor Christina Pagel, of University College London, a co-developer of the new dashboard, said: "One of the major things that's missing and has always been missing is the evaluation data on isolation.

"We don't know what percentage of people with symptoms are actually isolating for the full length of time or their contacts.

"If people are not isolating then it's just window dressing."

"We would like that to be collected and reported weekly because it is such an important thing."

Researchers found some of the best available data was two weeks old, and want "real-time information" prioritised so the right decisions can be made on measures such as local lockdowns.

One of Test and Trace's key functions is getting in touch with close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive.

But this month it has slipped well below the 80% trace level that government experts say is needed if it's to be effective.

October's figures have been getting progressively worse, with just under 60% of close contacts being traced.

Its boss, Baroness Dido Harding, has already faced calls to step aside.

Senior Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin told Sky News at the weekend the management of the system was bloated and muddled, with a "lack of overall strategy".

The government, however, is sticking by her, with sources saying she has built "an operation the size of Tesco in a matter of months".

The new Covid Response Evaluation Dashboard (Covid Red) will collate data from the Office of National Statistics, Public Health England, and the NHS.

It will present indicators of England's performance under headings of find, test, track, isolate and support to identify where more data or improvements are needed.