Coronavirus: 'Time is running out' for track and trace system, NHS bosses warn government

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A medical worker takes a swab at a drive-in coronavirus testing facility at the Chessington World of Adventures Resort in south west London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Health bosses have warned that 'time is running out' for the government's trace and trace system to be put in place. (PA)

‘Time is running out’ for the government to launch its track and trace system if the UK is to avoid a second wave of coronavirus, NHS bosses have warned.

The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, has written to health secretary Matt Hancock voicing concerns over an apparent lack of clear strategy by the government.

Contact tracing, which involves testing people for coronavirus, tracking the spread of the virus and tracing people who have come into contact with an infected person, is seen as a crucial step in easing current lockdown restrictions and avoiding a second wave of COVID-19.

Boris Johnson has announced that a testing and tracing system will be up and running by 1 June.

In the letter to the health secretary, NHS Confederation CEO Niall Dickson said while the prime minister’s plans to launch the system by June was “very much welcome”, “delivery and implementation will be critical, and we await further details”.

“We would therefore urge you to produce such a strategy with a clear implementation plan ahead of any further easing of the lockdown,” he wrote.

On Thursday morning, security minister James Brokenshire said he was “confident” the system would be in place by 1 June.

He told Sky News that the app “will be introduced in the coming weeks in parallel” with the system employing track and trace staff.

“But obviously, the priority being to get these track and tracers trained, in place, that is what the prime minister is very confident about.

“We’re confident the system will be there, able to track and trace around 10,000 people on 1 June.”

Earlier, the PM’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the smartphone app being trialled on the Isle of Wight “is only one part of the system” and there was a “tried and tested” system for tracing and testing people.

But Newcastle University’s Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health, said the UK government’s approach had raised numerous questions.

“This is an extraordinary experiment that the government’s put in place, and none of us know how it’s going to work,” she told BBC Radio 5.

“There’s so many questions to ask about this and why they’re bypassing the local systems, and the local health system and the local community. Because you have to know your local community. You can’t put the fire out from the centre.”

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