The government’s handling of Test and Trace has been shocking.
The government’s handling of Test and Trace has been shocking.

A new study by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the national  Test and Trace scheme failed to meet its targets, despite costs escalating to £22 billion.

According to the NAO report, which was released today, the Government’s Test and Trace system has been consistently failing to meet its target of providing coronavirus test results within 24 hours. Performance on turnaround times peaked in June with 93% of test results provided in 24 hours, but this deteriorated to a low of 14% around mid-October. The performance then improved a little, with 38% of results reported within 24 hours by the beginning of November.

Local statistics also show that both Public Health England and the local Council have been more successful than the centralised system at contacting people who have been close to someone with the virus. Current contact completion rates are approximately 59% for the national Test and Trace system, 99% for Public Health England, and 75% for the Sheffield City Council contact tracing service.

The NAO report also found that the government spent £5 billion on 121 contracts that were awarded without competitive tender, using emergency regulations to bypass normal procurement rules.

From missed targets to obscene cronyism, the government’s handling of Test and Trace has been shocking. The failure of the government to test and trace effectively will have helped the virus to spread and, tragically, will have cost lives.

This is not the “world-beating” system Boris Johnson promised us – it is barely fit for purpose. Instead of handing billions of pounds to private companies with records of failure, the government should have invested in experienced public health teams who have proven to be much more effective.

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