Contact Tracers in the UK Have Nothing to Do Because There Are So Few Cases

There are 21 contact tracers for each new case

The UK’s ‘world-beating’ NHS Test and Trace has hit the rocks once more. Now the service plans to axe 6,000 of its contact tracers so the work can be assigned to local authorities.

It’s not surprising that the jobs have gone. For months, test-and-trace staff have complained that they are essentially being paid to sit around and watch Netflix, while making only a handful of calls. Boredom is kept at bay in some call centres by team leaders providing fun quizzes.

The Guardian reported this week that in one of the subsidiaries, 471 agents managed to make just 135 calls in two days. That’s just 0.4 calls per person per day – and that includes calls to incorrect numbers, calls which went to voicemail, and calls to people who had already been contacted in error. One tracer claims that on one occasion, the same individual was contacted 20 times. In some weeks, the service has contacted less than half of the contacts of people with a positive Covid test. Though the success rate has risen to around seven in 10 since, SAGE estimates that at least 80 per cent of contacts would need to self-isolate for the scheme to be effective.

Despite the name, NHS Test and Trace is not run by the NHS at all. It is headed by Dido Harding, Conservative peer and former CEO of TalkTalk, and the work is split between two outsourcing companies – Serco and Sitel. In some cases, these firms then subcontract the work further to call centres. Contact tracing is hard. Most people simply cannot remember all the places they have been or all the people they have been in contact with. Nevertheless, the training on offer to the £10-per-hour call-centre staff does seem to be exceptionally poor.

Sitel’s online training reportedly put new tracers in groups of nearly 100 people per trainer, meaning the trainer was unable to answer most people’s questions. Many tracers say they initially had no idea what their role was supposed to be. When one trainee tracer asked how to deal with a bereaved person over the phone, they were told to look it up on YouTube.

Contact tracing is also split up into two types of cases – complex and non-complex cases. Complex cases, like outbreaks at schools and workplaces, are escalated up to local authorities. NHS Test and Trace deals with non-complex cases, contacting people via text, email or phone to ask about the recent places they visited and people they came into contact with, who can then be contacted in turn and asked to self-isolate. You have heard the expression ‘couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery’ — well how about couldn’t contain a virus at a track-and-trace centre? Last month, an outbreak of 14 Covid cases emerged in a Sitel-run track-and-trace centre in Lanarkshire and it had to be shut down. To add even more irony, the nature of the outbreak (affecting a whole building) made it too complex to be handled by NHS Test and Trace. Apparently, the firm even has a ‘social-distancing ambassador’ who is supposed to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

Another major test-and-trace debacle has been the much-anticipated app. It was originally supposed to be launched in May, and then by the end of June. The most recent reference to the app promises it will be integrated with the NHS Test and Trace system by 20 July. Meanwhile, the app’s website is currently archived. It seems the government dare not offer a new date. These failures are embarrassing and typical of the government’s bumbling, incoherent and destructive response to Covid. But the biggest problem making NHS Test and Trace so idle and pointless – for the time being at least – is the lack of virus.

The ONS estimates that 28,300 people in Britain have the virus. Meanwhile, there are 18,000 tracers working for NHS Track and Trace (soon to be 12,000). At current levels, that leaves around one-and-a-half virus cases for each tracer to follow up. In reality, we don’t know where these people are (assuming the ONS model is correct), so we have to go with the positive cases that present themselves. The seven-day average, at the time of writing, of 859 cases means that there are 21 contact tracers for each new case.

Worse still, the discovery of these cases is not doing us much good. Widespread testing was once mooted as an alternative to lockdown. Now it is being used to justify local lockdowns. Media scaremongering about rising cases in the UK masks the fact that there are two different types of cases. Pillar 1 cases reflect either a clinical need as a result of the virus, a person working in healthcare testing positive – these are the cases that should concern us since the virus has made these people ill. Pillar 2 cases are the swab tests for the wider population – some of these people will have no symptoms at all, and we don’t know how many could be false positives. Pillar 1 cases have been trending down for some time, and when you adjust for the numbers tested Pillar 2 cases are flat. All the other key indicators, like deaths and hospitalisations, have also been falling for weeks as the lockdown has eased.

As the Telegraph’s Sarah Knapton points out, more testing and tracing necessarily leads to finding new people ‘who did not even know they have the disease and would never have been tested normally’. The ‘rise’ in cases then prompts the shut down of whole cities (and even more testing in those hotspots). Test and trace, if used properly, would lead to a more precise and less disruptive approach to tackling the virus. It was supposed to be an alternative to lockdown – but is instead encouraging the government to play ‘whack a mole’ with the lockdown sledgehammer.

Though the bungling of test and trace is an embarrassment, the bigger danger is how a bungling government decides to use it.

Source: Spiked

  1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

    One could make the argument that a bungling government couldn’t make use of anything but a bungling program.

  2. Charles Homer says

    As shown in this article, the World Health Organization has hired a public relations firm to burnish its tarnished reputation:

    Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are being fed an even more constant stream of propaganda.

  3. Maxwell says

    The entirety of the “Covid narrative” is garbage- it is an engineered “pandemic”- in short there is not nor has there ever been a “pandemic.” 100% of it is complete BS. So in short there are no studies needed or new theories proposed that explain and/or go along with this supposedly “novel killer virus.” Any and all studies that put a “halo” around the premise that SARsCov2 is a threat are part of the problem- it is not- at least (even if it exists as such) in the sense of being a threat any more than any other virus in any season is a threat. This one in fact is far less lethal than many others (it may in fact be some of those others- hello)- hence no young healthy people impacted on a planet of 7.8 billion. So how can I say this? I will offer up just a few broad comments and will include greater detail to any of the points for any who wish:

    1) There is no excess death toll due to “Covid”- that death toll is due to policy shifts and attribution to “Covid” is patently false when not outright administrative corruption by health officials;

    2) The above purported “excess” death toll is primarily an artifact of nursing home mismanagement- 60% of “covid deaths” from nursing homes + or – 3%- once that is taken out of the “covid equation” we have near record numbers of low mortality rates in country after country;

    3) The average age of “Covid deaths” worldwide EXCEEDS the normal lifespan of citizens of those countries- that being 81 years old with on average 2.5 comorbidities- think about that;

    4) Average number of weeks of life lost due to “Covid” is a mere 1-3 weeks and that’s without consideration of having died “from” or “with”;

    5) PCR tests used to determine “cases” are a diagnostic fraud- inventor of PCR test, Kary Mullis, asserted PCR tests were not designed for diagnostic purposes;

    6) Cases which are determined by flawed PCR tests are purposefully juiced up in numerous ways- want details?- this is not simply more tests=more cases we are talking medical and institutional fraud- why did the CDC e.g. change years old policies on March 24th, April 14th and June 13th with each change designed to increase number of “positive” test cases;

    7) The WHO changed it’s definition of pandemic in 2009. Why? What preceded this in 2007?

    8) In the annals of global pandemics since the year 350 this one ranks 23rd out of 24 in overall deaths as a percentage of population worldwide. The swine flu pandemic of 2009 (coincidentally the same year the WHO changed that definition) ranks 24th. These two pandemics are several hundred (thousand in some cases) % points lower in mortality rates than past pandemics- how did they even make the cut;

    9) The “deaths from Covid” are from a specific demographic- actual pandemics are noted to impact mortality rates across a broad demographic. The “Covid” demographic is not merely the elderly but the most fragile of the fragile of the elderly who could die from any infection in their condition;

    10) “Deaths from Covid” are from specific locations. Pandemics are defined (supposed to be) by cutting across a wide swath of geographic regions. This pandemic has the habit of only impacting densely populated areas and more specifically the elderly in those areas and more specifically nursing homes- in the US for example if we eliminated just the deaths from NJ and NYC nursing homes we would not be having this conversation. In Italy same would be said if we eliminated deaths from elderly in Northern Italy- same elsewhere Belgium, Spain, Canada, Sweden etc.;

    The above 10 points are the short list.

    If people would stop wearing masks and stay off the internet and cable news for a week no one would know there was such a virus in existence.

    You can’t stop living the lie until you stop telling it.

  4. ravenise says

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