COVID crisis will last AT LEAST another year – plans to fight virus up to 2022 revealed

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Track and trace staff are being hired on 18-month contracts over fears that Coronavirus could be rolling on for months on end. The contracts, revealed in online job adverts, suggest that health chiefs are preparing for the pandemic to continue at least into 2022.

It comes as the latest figures reveal there had been a further 13,972 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 617,688.

Once a person has a confirmed positive coronavirus test, their case is transferred to NHS Test and Trace or NHS Track and Trace, which makes an initial decision on how to handle it based on its complexity.

Non-complex cases are then contacted either online or by the call centre staff and asked to give details of their contacts.

But complex cases are escalated to local health protection teams who work to identify and reach recent close contacts and advise them to self-isolate.

Latest figures show that England’s NHS Test and Trace saw its worst week on record for the proportion of contacts it manages to trace.

Some 68.6 percent of close contacts of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England were reached through the system in the week ending September 30.

This was the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began, and down from 72.5 percent in the previous week.

 

A Whitehall source told Express.co.uk tonight they were “well prepared” for the future of Coronavirus stressing “contact tracing was key”.

“We are exploring every potential future avenue to curbing the spread of the disease,” they added.

At the same time, analysis of Public Health Scotland data shows that over the last month the number of people waiting over 48 hours between their positive case being logged and being interviewed by contact tracers had increased rapidly.

In the week ending October 4th, 441 COVID-19 positive people waited over two days to be interviewed by a contact tracer.

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This was an increase from 177 the week before and 38 this time last month.

There had been hopes that an effective vaccine could be widely available in the first half of next year.

Sir Ian Boyd, professor in biology at the University of St Andrews and a member of Westminster’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), added: “I think at present it is not clear how long contact tracing will be needed for but it is possible that it could be a matter of years.

“At present, the most sensible precaution is to assume that we will have infection cycles going on for years ahead.”

 

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, told Express.co.uk: “There’s no knowing just how cataclysmic the damage of these delays could be.

“It puts contacts, family, friends or neighbours at greater risk of spreading the virus without their knowing it.

“Every minute counts, and tracers need to learn who these people are and reach them much faster.

“We can’t have positive cases waiting two days, three days and longer to be interviewed about their whereabouts and contacts.”

In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Contact tracing is a key part of how we keep the virus under control.

“While it is impossible to predict how long the pandemic will last for, it is important to be prepared and have an effective test and trace system.

“Contact tracing will continue for as long as it is needed.”

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