- “We have a growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating, and yes, it will be in place, it will be in place by June 1.”
- Labour Leader Keir Starmer lamented the lack of an “effective” system for the last ten weeks.
- The UK abandoned contact tracing on March 12.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a promise today that his government will unveil a new test, track and trace system as part of a new strategy of combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The system for tracking people infected with the new coronavirus will go in to effect on June 1, Johnson said.
Speaking today during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), the Prime Minister said his government intends to recruit 25,000 staff capable of tracing the contacts of up to 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. “That’s very important, because currently new cases are running at about 2,500 a day. They’ll be able to trace the contacts of those cases and to stop the disease spreading,” Johnson said.
In response to Opposition Leader Kier Starmer’s question on whether the system would be in place by June 1, the Prime Minister said, “we have a growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating, and yes, it will be in place, it will be in place by June 1.” The new detection and tracking system is considered critical in the government’s plan, which provides for the partial reopening of non-essential schools and stores in early June.
The pledge by the Prime minister was made after Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, lamented the lack of an “effective” system for the last ten weeks. He argued that it had left a void in the UK’s defense against the pandemic, hence the record number of fatalities, unlike Germany and South Korea. There, mortality is significantly lower than in the United Kingdom.
The UK abandoned contact tracing on March 12, when the government moved from its strategy of trying to contain the virus to delaying its spread. The strategy was abandoned due to the lack of testing capacity, which only reached the goal of 100,000 tests per day in late April. Used successfully by other countries, the tracking system aims to stop the transmission of the coronavirus by determining the isolation of people who have been in contact with an infected person.
In the UK, manual contact tracking will work in parallel with a mobile phone application developed by healthcare services. The app will automatically notify people that they are in close contact with an infected person, who are identified using Bluetooth wireless technology. However, the success of the application depends on the number of people who download it to their mobile phones so that they are notified. Experts estimate that a membership rate of more than 50% is necessary.
According to Tuesday’s official balance sheet, the United Kingdom had so far recorded 248,818 cases of infection, as well as 35,704 deaths. This gives the UK the second-highest number of deaths worldwide, trailing only the United States.
Globally, according to a report by AFP, the COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 327,000 deaths and infected more than 5 million people in 196 countries and territories worldwide. Nearly 2 million people are said to have recovered from the disease. It is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late December in Wuhan, China.