Reading’s very own local contact tracing system has helped the town meet national target to effectively fight the coronavirus.

The government has asked local authorities to set up their own systems to reach the remaining Covid positive people which the national system has not been able to get in touch with.

The local system contacts people that the national system has struggled to contact, with the aim of helping the overall system to reach the 80 per cent + contacts considered necessary for the process to have an impact on slowing the spread of the virus.

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The council has successfully contacted 64 out of the 125 people it has been asked to trace in its first two weeks (October 23 to November 5), more than 50 per cent of these hard-to-reach people.

Isabel Edgar Briancon, who heads up the service, said this has helped Reading meet the 80 per cent target in its first two weeks.

Speaking at the Reading Covid-19 Outbreak Engagement Board, hosted by Reading Borough Council (RBC), she said: “These are typically difficult-to-reach people so that is a really good success rate.”

Ms Briancon added: “What we are doing is really augmenting and supplementing the national service.

“Where the national service hasn’t managed to contact somebody – they have tried maybe for two days with four calls on each day – that individual would pass through to us and we would attempt to contact them.

“Our success rate of 52 per cent means we take the local area contact tracing success rate over 80 per cent, which is where Public Health England said it needs to be to be an effective service.”

A successful contact means the person has been called and they have provided the council’s tracing team with all contacts they can recall.

The council then uploads the contacts to the national system, which takes over.

RBC’s local tracing system failed to reach 42 contacts, while another 19 were reached but not successfully, for the following reasons:

  • Six were too ill to take part
  • Four refused to speak to the local tracers
  • Another four were unable to remember a sufficient amount of information
  • A further four were referred to the NHS because the data was old and the people had been tested many weeks before

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for Health and Wellbeing at RBC, said: “What a shame it is that council don’t run local tracing, the whole lot of it and don’t have the money to do so.

“I think that is a really good performance from the team so far, considering we are talking about cases the national system has failed with.

“It is also very worrying that some cases are coming through so late.”

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RBC is exploring introducing a door-to-door contact tracing service to reach even more contacts and Ms Briancon said this has “proved quite successful in other local authority areas”.

The the NHS Test and Trace system successfully traced an average of 64 per cent of cases in Reading before the local team’s intervention.