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UK

Only two-thirds of COVID cases transferred to English tracing system in latest week

FILE PHOTO: Dido Harding, Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace walks down the street amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Westminster, London, Britain September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Only two-thirds of positive COVID-19 cases were referred to England’s test and trace system in the latest weekly figures published on Thursday, after thousands of results were affected by a glitch that delayed tracing.

The robustness of the test-and-trace system has been again called into question this week after a technical problem delayed the upload of nearly 16,000 cases into computer systems, including for contact tracers.

The health ministry said the error means 11,000 positive test results that would normally have entered the contact tracing system in the latest reporting period were delayed until the next week.

In all, NHS Test and Trace said that 51,475 people tested positive for COVID-19 between Sept. 24 and Sept. 30, a 56% increase on the previous week, but only 34,494 people were transferred to the tracing system in the same week.

The glitch, which was identified on Oct. 2 and reported publicly two days later, was the latest setback for a test and trace system which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would be world beating.

Although 74% of those transferred to the system were reached to provide information about their contacts in the latest weekly statistics, up from 71.3% the previous week, only 68.6% of 101,782 identified contacted were reached, down from 71.6% and well below the target of 80%.

Turnaround times for test results also fell in the latest week, with 60.8% of in-person test results received the next day after the test was taken, down from 70.6% the previous week.

“As the number of cases rise, so demand for tests continues to grow. We are working hard to increase testing capacity to meet that demand and improve turnaround times for tests,” Dido Harding, who runs the test and trace system, said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Kate Holton and William James

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