Reading Borough Council (RBC) is setting up a coronavirus tracing service to pick up contacts the national scheme fails to reach.

The council will launch the service within the next two weeks, according its director of resources Jackie Yates.

Residents will be contacted over the phone by council workers and advised to self-isolate for at least 14 days, as per current government guidelines, when the government fails to reach them.

READ MORE: Tier 1: Covid restrictions for Reading explained

Ms Yates revealed the new council-run service, which will be in addition to the national scheme, at RBC’s Audit & Governance committee on Monday evening (October 12).

She said: “Central government have mandated that local authorities will pick up the test and trace activity for all contacts they have not been able to make.

“Councils are being asked to pick up that residual 27 per cent, or whatever it is, in their local area.

“That is due to go live within the next one-to-two weeks.”

But Ms Yates added: “We are not developing our own test and trace system.”

She said the service will be “quite an onerous task” as most of the conversations last about an hour, while only some of the costs will be funded by government.

Sage experts say the national Test and Trace scheme is having a ‘marginal’ impact on tackling the virus because the system neither tests nor traces enough people.

Just 68.6 per cent of close contacts of individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 were reached in the week ending September 30, the lowest weekly percentage since the scheme began.

READ MORE: Recorded Covid cases jump in Reading during weekend

Green councillor Josh Williams had asked for more details on the plans in Reading, which were mentioned in the council’s strategic risk register, which lists risks which could impact RBC’s goals.

Risk 11 notes the local test and trace scheme as an opportunity to reduce the risk of failing to effectively respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Labour councillor Paul Gittings raised concerns that full costs would not be met by the government.

He said: “That does concern me.

“This is extremely intensive work. The government system of outsourcing to private companies has not achieve the requires numbers.

“I am sure if we had been handed control we would have had a lot of success.”

Ms Yates said that, because Reading is not in the one of the higher risk areas currently, it will not initially have to deal with a high numbers of contacts.

She said: “If we were Liverpool or where we were at the start of the pandemic the resources needed would be bigger.

“I would envisage we would get a further tranche of funding in due course depending on how that pans out.”

The local tracing service will be manned by staff who have worked at the One Reading Community Hub as well as colleagues currently on furlough.