BBC's Jon Kay in TV clash with Argar over UK test and trace: 'Not world-beating are we?'


    The BBC Breakfast host confronted the Junior Health Minister on the UK’s coronavirus test and trace system success as he claimed the Government failed to keep its promise to deliver a “world-beating” system. As Edward Argar defended the system by saying most countries do not publish their test and trace data and of those who do, New Zealand has a higher rate of success than the UK, Jon Kay blasted: “You’ve just given us examples of two other countries at least that are doing much better than us.

    “So by definition, we’re not world-beating, are we?”

    Mr Argar replied: “New Zealand, in terms of their test and trace, their percentage performance on this is only marginally better than ours.

    “America, New York, a significantly lower proportion of contacts has been traced.

    “42 percent or so, we’re on just shy of 80 percent of those who test positive being contacted.

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    “That’s significantly better. I think internationally, comparing these things we’re doing very well on that.

    “And as I said, many other countries, most European countries don’t publish any data of this sort at all.”

    The Tory Minister was also forced to defend the system in an earlier interview on Sky News. 

    He told Sky host Niall Paterson: “I think this is actually a reflection of a successful system that as we’ve always said would flex and evolve to meet our understanding of the disease and the changing need of our community.

    “But in terms of the world-beating, the world comparators, we are one of the few countries in the world that actually publishes, transparently, quite rightly so you and others can question us all, our test and trace data.

    “Other ones that do, for example New York I think the contact tracing rate is about 42 percent, California is about 68.

    It comes as the Government announced it was strengthening regional test and trace powers in England while axing 6,000 national contract tracers.

    It means people who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases may get a knock on their door if tracers are unable to reach them over the phone.

    Labour said the changes showed the system was nowhere near “world-beating”, as the Government claimed.

    In all, 117 trusts will benefit from the additional funding which could be used by hospitals to increase A&E capacity, with more treatment cubicles and expanded waiting areas to ease overcrowding and improve infection control.

    It could also enable hospitals to increase the provision of same-day emergency care and improve patient flows to help them to better respond to winter pressures and the risks of fresh coronavirus outbreaks.


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