Coronavirus: Is the UK’s ‘test and trace’ system ready to fight local outbreaks? – BBC Newsnight

published on July 13, 2020

Today we saw what was supposed to be the big picture on regional variations for infections in england these data are from phe in the northeastern yorkshire the r number is 08 in the southeast 09 but in the

Southwest it's at 1 and in the north west it's more than one based on the falling number of infections schools have been asked to open more widely but today tameside council in greater

Manchester delayed this based on the north west figure and stretched local health services even those modeling these r numbers say that they should be interpreted with

Caution they come with huge uncertainty their estimates and they should not be interpreted in isolation this particular model is one of about half a dozen that's feeding into sage

And i think this obsession with the r number is actually holding us back from understanding where do we look at where the infection is actually transmitting

And where do we look at it in terms of thinking about where we actually manage this outbreak seriously and i would say to people actually in terms of the r number

To just actually take it with a pinch of salt this graph released today by the ons shows the estimated proportion of the population in england testing positive for coronavirus since

The end of april you can see it's trending down but the lines on the graph show the margins of error the uncertainty these data and national more localized data

Are needed one of the most important aspects for regional public health right now is to have dashboards of where the outbreaks are this could be in a care home but it

Could be in a workplace it's understanding that basic data is crucial to the test and trace policy there's hope that this new test and trace system will help local authorities stem outbreaks

And while the system is still new local authorities say they're only getting very basic aggregate data what they need to know is who has been infected and most importantly where they have

Been infected official sensitive test and trace data seen by newsnite show how limited these data are one critical element that's missing are postcodes

People do not have to fill these in but this would enable local authorities to have a much clearer picture about where local outbreaks are occurring we're getting some data but actually what we really need is more

Uh quick data so we can actually contain the virus if there is a particular hotspot it may also uh assist if we're able to do some local tracing so we can really turn around that data very very quickly

And that's the sort of clarity we need from central government providing us the information there again that's one of the things that we need to make sure we do have that granular data so we can actually get down to sort of

Community and street level and really work to clamp down on the virus those local teams might be working with better data than before but experts say it must get better still

If local outbreaks are to be avoided

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