NATIONAL coronavirus contact tracers are failing to reach nearly four in 10 people in Oxfordshire who should be told to self isolate, figures reveal.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth has said the system is 'going backwards' and needed to reach at least 80 per cent to have 'any chance of success'.

It comes as a weekly update on county cases yesterday showed infections rising in every district and a third patient this month was confirmed to have died with the virus at the John Radcliffe's hospital trust.

Data from the Department for Health and Social Care shows 2,419 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Oxfordshire were transferred to the Test and Trace service between May 28 and October 14.

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Contact tracers ask these patients to give details for anyone they were in close contact with in the 48 hours before their symptoms started.

This led to 6,412 close contacts being identified over the period – also referred to as 'non-complex' cases, meaning they could be dealt with through a call centre or online.

But just 60.8 per cent were reached – down from 63.7 per cent at the start of the scheme to September 30, and 62.4 per cent by October 7.

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Ian Hudspeth

Mr Hudspeth, speaking as chairman of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, said it was concerning the Test and Trace system was 'going backwards'.

He added: “If we are to prevent this second wave from escalating further, we need the system to meet the recommended 80 per cent benchmark if it is to have any chance of success."

In September, Oxfordshire's director of public health Ansaf Azhar admitted his own 'frustration' with national failings in both contact tracing and testing availability.

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He said at the time he was waiting on Government approval for a local contact tracing system to catch people missed by the national system.

This was granted two weeks ago and, at the time, Oxfordshire County Council consultant in public health Adam Briggs said: “Our local contact tracing system provides another layer of support to help control Covid-19 in Oxfordshire.

“If you are contacted, it will be a locally based person on the other end of the phone.

"They will talk to you about what you need to do to protect your friends and family whilst isolating, and about what support is available nearby."

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The England average for contact tracing was even lower than in Oxfordshire, with just 57.6 per cent of non-complex close contacts reached and told to self-isolate across England to October 14.

Including complex cases – those linked to settings such as hospitals, schools or prisons – the contact tracing rate was slightly higher at 59.6 per cent, but still the lowest percentage since Test and Trace began.

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At a Downing Street press conference last week, the Government's chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said it was 'very clear' that there was room for improvement.

He told the press briefing: “It’s undoubtedly the case that test, trace and isolation becomes much more difficult to have an impact once numbers are high, it’s much more effective when numbers are low.”

In Oxfordshire, 630 new positive cases were transferred to test and trace in the week of October 14.

Across England, around 97,000 cases were transferred – a figure that has increased sharply since the end of August.

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Data also shows that in the latest weekly period, just 15.1 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 nationally at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit, received their result within 24 hours.

This was down from 32.8 per cent in the previous week and is the lowest rate on record.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts across England, said: "These figures provide yet more evidence that the test and trace system is falling short.

"The figures on turnaround times are particularly disturbing."