Great Britain

Britain’s top medic warns it will be ‘quite some time’ before new Test and Trace system is operating at full capacity

BRITAIN’s top medic warned it will be “quite some time” before the new Test and Trace system is operating at full capacity.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the vital new programme to hunt down fresh coronavirus contagion trails “is not yet at cruising altitude”.

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The admission came as Boris Johnson was accused of rushing it in so he can start relaxing the nation’s coronavirus lockdown.

The Sun has been told that testing tsar Baroness Harding warned the PM weeks ago that she was only able to deliver a “basic” service in time for June 1, and it would be dangerous for him to claim otherwise.

It could take until the end of this month for council contact tracing teams to be sent into action locally, Dido Harding also told Mr Johnson.

But days later, the PM told the Commons on May 20 that the system will be in place by June 1 and it “will be world-beating”.

Government scientists have insisted that it is crucial for Test and Trace to be up and running before and lockdown measures should be eased, such as the reopening of schools on Monday.

But while standing beside Boris at the No10 daily Covid-19 briefing, Mr Whitty said of Test and Trace: "We are not yet at cruising altitude for this.

"The number of tests is going to keep on going up and our ability to use the tests we have got is going to carry on going up.

"This is going to carry on for quite some time before we get to the point where we are all satisfied we have got to the point we need."

Downing Street sources also conceded there was much more to be done on Test and Trace.


A No10 source admitted: “It’s basically the biggest call centre in Europe.

“It’s going to take to take time to go through the gears.”

In bitter clashes with Labour boss Keir Starmer the PM refused to reveal exactly how many Brits have already been ordered to isolate by the programme, putting the number instead at “thousands”.

Reports said the programme’s call centre staff are only hunting down the contacts of just 40% of people who test positive for  Covid-19 at the moment.

Mr Johnson also didn’t contradict the Opposition Leader’s suggestion that 45,000 contacts a day should be being called, from an estimated 9,000 daily infections.

But the PM did set a new target to turn round all coronavirus tests within 24 hours by the end of June.

At the moment, results are declared for less than half in a day, and 90% of tests results are known with 48 hours.

Boris told the Commons during PMQs: “I can undertake to get all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June”.

The PM was also forced to concede that the coronavirus alert level had not moved down from 4 to 3 as he had hoped it would.

But he hit back at Sir Keir to insist that “he knows perfectly well” that the current alert level still allows him to ease some restrictions.

The PM said: "Yes the alert level remains at four, but as SAGE will confirm we've managed to protect the NHS, got the rate of deaths down, rate of infection down, the PPE crisis, difficulties in care homes, the question of the R, they have been addressed”.


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