Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by his description of Britain’s system of testing and tracing coronavirus infections yesterday, despite a fall in the number of people contacted by tracers.
Asked whether, in light of the latest data, he thought it was still a world beating system, Johnson said: “If you look at what we’re doing, actually I think it certainly is and it certainly does fit that description as world beating.”
Earlier the health ministry said the proportion of the contacts of positive Covid-19 cases reached by England’s test and trace system fell in its latest week. The ministry added that the decline was partly due to local health protection teams handling outbreaks.
The department of health said 4,642 positive cases were transferred to the system in the week to July 29, of whom 79.4% were reached and asked to provide their contacts.
Some 19,150 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive and of these 72.4% were reached and asked to self-isolate, it said, a decrease from 76.2% in the previous week.
Meanwhile, according to an Imperial College study of 150,000 volunteers the spread of the novel coronavirus in England slowed in June and early July.
“As the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in England transitioned out of its initial lockdown phase, prevalence of swab-positivity continued to decrease,” the so-called Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission study found.
The study, which will be peer-reviewed before a final report is published, also found that risk of infection was higher in London than in other areas of England.
It found there was an increased risk of infection among those with Black and Asian (mainly South Asian) ethnicities.
In a related development, Belgium is set to be added to England’s quarantine list after a rise in Covid-19 cases, meaning arrivals from the country will have to isolate for 14 days.
The Guardian understands that officials at the department for transport (DfT) are finalising the announcement of the move and the current plan is that the measures are not due to come into effect until the weekend.
The government is expected to change Foreign Office travel advice, which is issued separately, for Belgium at the same time.
Belgium, which has one of the highest per capita coronavirus death rates in the world with more than 9,800 fatalities out of a population of about 11mn, announced a series of further restrictive measures last month to curb the spread of the virus. It has seen a resurgence of the virus, with the country passing 70,000 Covid-19 cases this week.
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