A senior scientist has warned that Britain is heading back into lockdown when schools reopen due to the UK’s current “disastrous” track and trace system, The Mirror reports.
Former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King said: “We need a proper test and trace system by September. Otherwise full school opening will put us right back.”
Sir David, 80, who now heads the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies shadowing the Prime Minister’s scientific team added: “The Government has a month to deal with the level of infectivity as it stands now. Reopening schools should be a priority, but we believe we are nowhere near the point where it can be done safely…
“We will see the Government backing lockdowns and, yes, I do think this could happen nationally.”
He said the R rate of infection number is expected to rise by about 0.5 with all schools open. Latest figures show the national rate to be between 0.8 and 1 – the maximum rate allowed – to prevent a rapid rise in infections.
Explaining why track and trace is not working Sir David said: “Test and trace is still failing dramatically…
“Tracing here is one phone call and you are asked to isolate. There is no follow-up as to whether people do.”
He urged Boris Johnson to take track and trace from private firm Serco and let councils run it.
“The Government made a disastrous mistake giving contact tracing to a firm with no healthcare expertise,” he said.
“The Serco contract is up for renewal this month. They’ve had roughly £100million so far. They’ll get £300 million if it’s extended. This is not working.
“When you hit 3,000 new cases a day, it’s an enormous number for any national body to deal with. But break it down into local regions and the numbers become manageable.”
Sir David’s warning comes after the UK government imposed series of local lockdowns in areas including Preston and Leicester. The West Midlands has not yet been affected with new restrictions following the almost four month UK lockdown.
However there are serious concerns for the borough of Sandwell where there are significant number of infections across households – although there has been a “big drop” in recent cases.
Yesterday we reported an urgent appeal had gone out to find around 70 pub goers who attended a barbecue at Smethwick pub Soho Tavern after an outbreak of coronavirus.
Sandwell’s Deputy Council Leader Councillor Maria Crompton said: “We urgently need to alert anyone who attended the event last weekend to self-isolate until Sunday 16 August. If they have any symptoms they should book a test.”
“Everyone needs to stay incredibly vigilant – the virus is still out there and the situation remains extremely serious – as this potential outbreak shows.”
The Academy of Medical Sciences has estimated up to 120,000 people here could die of Covid-19 this winter.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told The Mirror: “In just nine weeks NHS Test and Trace has tested over 3 million people for coronavirus and has reached almost a quarter of a million people who have either tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive – in order to break the chain of transmission.
“Specially-trained call handlers work with national and local public health experts, NHS clinicians and local health protection teams, and play a vital role in helping to stop the spread of the virus.”