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Council-run contact tracing systems could be set up in 94 areas across England to squash virus

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Nearly 100 local councils are considering setting up their own contact tracing teams to boost the lagging NHS Test and Trace programme, according to reports. 

The national operation is still failing to find half of close contacts of infected people, well below the 80 per cent minimum threshold to keep a lid on local outbreaks. 

Some 94 areas are said to have ‘expressed interest’ to Public Health England about deploying their own tracers.

Councils will support NHS Test and Trace by sending tracers to chap on doors of people who refuse to answer the phone to, or reply to emails from, the national team. 

They will also use their community ties to engage with harder to reach people in deprived areas and those who do not speak English. 

Experts have told MailOnline that language barriers and trust issues are the main factors behind the low success rates of the NHS system in many of England’s worst-affected areas. 

It comes after a major study last week warned that reopening schools in September would trigger a devastating second wave and kill tens of thousands more Brits if the NHS system is not up to scratch. 

Nearly 100 local councils are considering setting up their own contact tracing teams, it was reported today (file)

Nearly 100 local councils are considering setting up their own contact tracing teams, it was reported today (file)

Leicester, Blackburn and Luton – which have some of the highest infection rates in the country – set up their own local teams earlier this month to help curb their outbreaks.

The plans to establish local teams were disclosed in a letter from Public Health England chief Duncan Selbie to England’s public health regional directors last week, the Sun reports. 

Reopening schools in September WILL lead to a catastrophic second wave of coronavirus unless NHS test and trace drastically improves, major study claims 

Children returning to school in September will trigger a devastating second wave of Covid-19 that could infect twice as many as the first unless the test and trace system drastically improves, a major study has claimed.

Scientists said reopening schools in the UK would inevitably result in another crisis that peaks in December.

But it could be avoided — with pubs remaining open and no draconian lockdowns needed — if testing is dramatically ramped up and the contact tracing system becomes better.

Three quarters of people with Covid-19 would need to be tested and self-isolate to prevent a second wave caused by schools reopening. 

Experts found that, to prevent a second wave when schools reopen, the NHS contact tracing system must reach 68 per cent of cases and their contacts.

But the current NHS system is ‘not good enough’. It reaches half of contacts and only a fraction of symptomatic cases are tested, according to researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

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It said: ‘We have been extending a model of locally supported contact tracing, developed initially with Leicester, and subsequently by Blackburn with Darwen and Luton, which brings local knowledge and insights to the challenge of case finding.

‘We are supporting the work of Local Authorities on the Covid-19 watch list to develop this capability, along with a further 94 Local Authorities who have expressed an interest.

‘In partnership with NHS Test and Trace, we will shortly be inviting all Local Authorities to take part in webinar events to determine if they also wish to develop a local service.’  

The plans would see national tracers pass on details of infected patients who they could not reach after 48 hours of trying.  

A Government spokesperson said: ‘NHS Test and Trace is working, and local action to tackle outbreaks and keep people safe is a crucial part of the national service.

‘We are rolling out more dedicated ring-fenced teams of contact tracers, who are trained health professionals, to work intensively with health protection teams on a local area and are recruiting more people to work in local public health teams too.’

It comes after a study by University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last week found reopening schools will cause a devastating second wave if the test and trace system drastically improves.

Scientists said reopening schools in the UK would inevitably result in another crisis that peaks in December.

But it could be avoided — with pubs remaining open and no draconian lockdowns needed — if testing is dramatically ramped up and the contact tracing system becomes better.

Three quarters of people with Covid-19 would need to be tested and self-isolate to prevent a second wave caused by schools reopening. 

Experts found that, to prevent a second wave when schools reopen, the NHS contact tracing system must reach 68 per cent of cases and their contacts.

But the current NHS system is ‘not good enough’. It reaches half of contacts and only a fraction of symptomatic cases are tested, according to the researchers. 

Three quarters of people with Covid-19 would need to be tested and self-isolate to prevent a second wave caused by schools reopening. 

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson told teachers today they have a ‘moral duty’ to help schools reopen next month as he faced a standoff with unions.

The PM warned it is ‘not right’ that pupils should spend more time out of the classroom, reiterating his determination for a full return when term begins.

While he was careful to praise the work done by teachers and unions to make schools ‘safe’ in time for the move, he added: ‘It is our moral duty as a country to make sure that happens.’

The intervention – on a visit to a school in Upminster – came as unions were accused of a bid to sabotage the government’s plans with a 200-item list of safety demands.

The National Education Union has provided its half a million members with a ‘checklist’ of Covid-secure measures, saying they should ‘escalate’ complaints if they are not being followed. There have also been calls for pupils to be taught on a week on, week off rota.

But Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of Sage, said studies had suggested children were ‘very minor players in the transmission overall’ of the virus.

And he insisted teachers were not at significantly higher risk than any other workers.

Ministers have also played down calls for teachers and pupils to be routinely tested whether or not they have symptoms.

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