Former Minister of Health Jeremy Hunt reacted in disbelief to the lack of data on the government’s testing and tracking program after the head of the service was unable to provide data on how many tests were performed in the first 24 hours.
The United Kingdom stopped community testing and contact tracing for covid-19 in early March, in part due to lack of capacity1. But after pressure from public health experts on May 28, 2 a new program was launched to get in the way of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said it would be “beating the world.”
At a June 3 hearing at the House Health and Welfare Committee, Hunt said that Dido Harding, chairman of the NHS Test and Trace, received advance notice on four issues, including one requesting share of completed tests. after 24 hours.
Giving evidence, Harding said: “This is a service that is only six days old, and we need to make sure that all the data is accurate and verified,” adding: “I just don’t have statistics at the level that would pass the test of our UK Statistical Office. “
She referred to a letter from the chairman of the Statistical Office of Great Britain to the Secretary of Health Matt Hancock, in which he criticized the government’s approach to transmitting test data.
Harding was uncomfortable with the exchange of unverified data, but said that she works with the UK Statistical Office and “is close to agreeing on a weekly toolbar for testing and tracking data, but I do not have data to exchange today.” She promised next week if the data could be verified.
In response, Hunt said: “We have notified you. This is the selection committee of the House of Commons, and we were told that it was a system of world beating when it was launched, so I don’t think it’s unwise to ask fairly simple questions. ”
He further said: “What no one wants to tell us is the total proportion of tests that return within 24 hours. You must know this. It just can’t be true. You tell me you don’t know how many tests return within 24 hours, and you are responsible for the NHS Test and Trace?
“We are disappointed that it is very difficult for us to carefully analyze what the government does if we are not provided with data that allows us to do this.”
Harding was able to provide some qualitative data, stating that of the thousands of people contacted in the first six days, the vast majority of those who were asked to isolate were happy to do so. She noted that out of approximately 8,000 people who were infected with 19 viruses daily, 1,600 are currently undergoing testing. However, she expressed concern that a recent survey showed that 44% of adults are unaware that anyone with symptoms can order a test.
The need for quick testing
Also citing evidence, Christophe Fraser, a professor of pathogen dynamics at Oxford University, noted that the UK is currently moving from the “stay home” message to quick testing and contact tracing, which “has been accepted by countries with best practices.” “. According to him, the countries that mobilized this approach from the very beginning felt better, and they have an advantage, because “it is easier to conduct very fast and effective testing and tracking when the number of cases is relatively limited.”
When asked how quickly contacts should be tracked, Fraser said that the incubation period of covid-19 is usually about two days before the onset of symptoms, which means that provided that people request a test within two days of the onset of symptoms, you have “About four days.” from the case of the development of the index to the onset of symptoms in people before they begin to infect others. ” Requesting a test in two days will leave only a short window to complete the test and the tracing process.
“If you have a delay of two days after that, you have lost a third of the contact tracking potential; two days later you lost another third; and if you wait six days, any contact would go through their infection, ”he added.
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