Ministers to release more test results data to help fight virus

More data about people testing positive for coronavirus will be shared with public health directors and local councils to help them fight the disease in their area.

From tomorrow, public health directors across England will automatically get access to both positive tests and patient level data on a daily basis.

Ten local authorities will also be given access to patient details to allow them to contact and trace patients who are infected. This will be rolled out to other councils from next week.

The government will also make more data available to the public later today in an effort to deliver greater transparency around the rates of virus transmission in communities.

Data will be published from 5pm on Thursday on the government’s test and trace website showing data for positive cases for areas of between 5,000 and 15,000 people.

This will allow data on most towns and villages to be visible as an interactive map as well as being downloadable.

The data will be published weekly to start with but may become available every day in future.

Separately, the test and trace service has launched an investigation into the safety of test kits supplied by Randox laboratories after concerns they do not meet “required safety standards for coronavirus testing”.

In a statement the Department of Health and Social Care said any safety risk was low, adding: “As a precautionary measure and while we investigate further, NHS test and trace are requesting that all settings pause the use of Randox test kits with immediate effect and until further notice.”

Test results from Randox kits are not linked to the issue, which affects unused equipment.

The latest weekly data for the test and trace service showed it was still struggling to improve its results, with just under one-quarter of people who tested positive not being reached by the tracers.

Scientists have said more than 80 per cent of people need to be contacted within 48 hours for testing and tracing to be effective at controlling the virus.

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For the week to 8 July, 78.7 per cent of people tested positive for the virus and were contacted by tracers, compared to 78 per cent the previous week.

A total of 71 per cent of close contacts were reached and advised to self-isolate.

Dr Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation, said: “It is heartening to see there has been a slight improvement in the percentage of people reached who had their case transferred to the contact tracing system – but there is still more work to do, as the scheme is still not reaching the 80 per cent target for tracing close contacts recommended by SAGE.

“Indeed, only 71.1 per cent of people identified as close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate. This is at the heart of this system and of minimising the spread of the virus: if more close contacts cannot be reached, it will be far more difficult to maintain safety and protect the NHS.”

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