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COVID-19 cases in England have been “rising steeply” over the past six weeks, with 89,874 people testing positive in seven days, the most recent data from NHS test and trace shows.
The number of positive cases between 1 October and 7 October marks a 64% increase on the previous week, and the highest number of infections since the system launched in May.
Some 6.3% of people tested returned a positive result. This rate has been increasing since the end of August.
The number of contacts of people who had tested positive hit a record low for another week, with 62.6% of close contacts reached, down on 68% the previous week.
Scientists advising the government say at least 80% of close contacts must be traced and persuaded to isolate for two weeks in order for the system to work.
Last week, the government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the scheme, which has cost £10bn so far, has had only a “marginal impact on transmission”.
Watch: Londoners banned from mixing indoors
The news comes as millions of people in England will face tougher coronavirus restrictions, with households banned from mixing indoors in London and other areas.
Huge parts of the north of England and the Midlands were put under the new Tier 2 restrictions on Wednesday, banning mixing with other households anywhere indoors.
The Liverpool City Region was the only area to be put under Tier 3, which meant pubs, restaurants, gyms and other venues had to close.
Manchester is rumoured to be joining the Tier 3 restrictions, despite protests from local leaders.
The latest test and trace figures will only add to the frustration felt by local leaders facing harsher restrictions.
Scientists generally agree the best way to quickly stop the spread of the virus is to have an effective test, trace and isolate system.
Labour MP Catherine West called the latest figures “shambolic”.
She tweeted: “Boris Johnson promised a "world beating" system and his Ministers repeatedly defend it to the hilt.
This is shambolic.
Boris Johnson promised a "world beating" system and his Ministers repeatedly defend it to the hilt.
We deserve better than this. We need a system which works, and we need it quickly. https://t.co/Yss8AGuxAv
— Catherine West MP (@CatherineWest1) October 15, 2020
“We deserve better than this. We need a system which works, and we need it quickly.”
Not only would an effective test and trace system get more people to self isolate and quicker when they need to but the more reliable data would help the government to move faster to implement tighter restrictions.
This was one of the reasons the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggested a ‘circuit break’ lockdown at the end of September, which the government rejected.
Since it emerged the plan was rejected Johnson has faced renewed calls to implement a swift lockdown to get infections under control.
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed implementing a circuit break lockdown over half term, but one Sage member has said it’s now too late for such a move to have an effect.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan echoed Sir Keir’s call for a circuit break lockdown in a meeting with City Hall.
He added he expected London to move to Tier 2 based on “expert public health and scientific advice about what is necessary to save lives in the capital”
He stressed he was pushing for extra support from the government.
“Nobody wants to see more restrictions – but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners’ lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers,” he said.
The ban on households mixing indoors could be devastating for the capital’s 3,640 pubs and 7,556 restaurants – who will see business suffer but will not be eligible for government support available to premises which have been ordered to close.
Khan has supported the change in London’s categorisation, unlike his counterpart in Greater Manchester.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has been vocal in his opposition to the imposition of Tier 3 measures in the area.
Other local leaders and MPs representing the region have also voiced their anger at the move.
Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon said that Downing Street refused to tell MPs whether Greater Manchester was being placed in Tier 3.
The Covid-19 meeting with Government is over and it was absolutely pointless. No consultation, no evidence was shared on the likely impact of further measures, no economic analysis and no enhanced financial support
Wouldn’t even tell us if GM is being placed in T3 lockdown!
— Jim McMahon MP (@JimfromOldham) October 15, 2020
The Labour MP tweeted: “The Covid-19 meeting with Government is over and it was absolutely pointless.
“No consultation, no evidence was shared on the likely impact of further measures, no economic analysis and no enhanced financial support.
“Wouldn’t even tell us if Greater Manchester is being placed in Tier 3 lockdown!”
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