COVID-19: Weekly coronavirus cases in England rise 12%, Test and Trace figures show

Coronavirus cases have increased by 12% in England, according to weekly Test and Trace figures.

Between 3 and 9 December, 109,167 people tested positive.

It marks a 12% rise on the previous week, but is below the peak of 168,535 in the seven days to 11 November.

Around 92.7% of close contacts of people with coronavirus are now being reached, according to the latest figures.

In total, 264,960 people were contacted between 3 and 9 December – up from 85.8% the previous week.

The figures relate to a new system, where all contacts within one household can now be recorded as having been reached via a single phone call.

Under the old system, where all close contacts were traced individually, 60.5% of people were reached in the week ending 18 November.

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Of the 96,631 people transferred to Test and Trace in the most recent week, 86.7% were reached and asked to provide details of close contacts.

This is broadly unchanged on the 86.6% the week before.

Around 11.2% of people transferred to Test and Trace in the week to December 9 were not reached, while a further 2.2% did not provide any communication details.

What tests can you get, where from, and how much are they?

An interim study by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that Test and Trace had spent £5bn on 121 contracts that were awarded directly, without competitive tender, using emergency regulations allowing the government to bypass normal procurement rules.

The government has defended the total of £6.4bn spent on contracts with limited competition, saying that using the private sector meant it could scale up operations at speed.

The NAO, however, said the spending spree had caused “specific risks” including “lack of central oversight”.

Analysis: Absolutely critical Test and Trace is effective in run-up to Christmas

By Ashish Joshi, health correspondent

The government’s latest Test and Trace figures look better. There are improvements in the number of contacts traced and the speed at which they are being reached. It says the reason is improving the contact tracing website, reducing repeat calls to households and increasing the number of call handlers.

It should have and could have done all of this before. It has taken six months to reach the half a million testing capacity for people with COVID- 19 symptoms. The government says it now has 700 working test sites and has shrunk the average distance people have to travel from over five miles to just over two. That has taken three months.

There is a marginal improvement in the number of in-person test results received the next day after the test was taken. In this reporting period (3-9 December) more than 96,000 positive cases were transferred to contact tracers but only 86% of these were reached and told to self isolate. This needs to be improved.

We can expect to see much more focused and targeted testing in the coming weeks. Schools and universities, places of worship and the health and social care settings. Employers with a big workforce will be given guidance on how to set up their own testing facility. But this cost will be met by the employer and not the government.

Community testing is going to be ramped up in the beginning of the New Year. The first local authorities to receive mass testing supplies have been identified. The intention is to identify asymptomatic carriers to stop the spread of the virus.

The latest set of figures is encouraging. And the timing is crucial. As we head into Christmas there are real fears that infections will surge again so it is absolutely critical that Test and Trace is operating as effectively as possible.

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