Coronavirus: Weekly positive COVID-19 tests have doubled since Test and Trace was launched in May

September 17, 2020

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in England is now double the number recorded when the country's Test and Trace system was launched at the end of May.

Official figures show 18,371 new people tested positive for COVID-19 in England between 3 September and 9 September, a substantial increase of 167% compared with the end of August.

Only a third of test kits came back within 24 hours during that period, contradicting a promise made by Boris Johnson that all tests would be done in a day by the end of June.

The number of positive coronavirus cases has been rising nationwide since the start of July, according to the Department of Health and Social Care data.

Test numbers increased by 27% in the most recent week compared with the previous week, after remaining at consistent levels between the end of July and the end of August, the new numbers reveal.

There has also been a 74% increase in the number of people referred to the Test and Trace service - three times as many than at the beginning of August.

The numbers show that 82.6% of those people were reached and asked to provide information about their contacts.

In total, 73.9% of those contacts were successfully reached and asked to self-isolate, which is similar to the levels seen from mid-July onwards.

The number of contacts identified as part of the scheme for that week increased by 255% compared with the end of August, according to the figures.

Sky News health correspondent Ashish Joshi said all the figures are "going in the wrong direction".

He commented on Health Secretary Matt Hancock's statement in the Commons today that 100 coronavirus patients are now on ventilators.

"One key statistics was used by Matt Hancock during his Commons address today and that was the number of people on ventilated beds - 100," he said.

"That tells you just what the problem is. More vulnerable, older people are becoming infected and they need specialist hospital treatment.

"And that puts extra pressure on the NHS, as we approach a very critical winter period."

It comes after the prime minister last week announced plans for a mass testing programme dubbed "Operation Moonshot" that would see "millions" of people swabbed every day.

It would cost the government £10bn, but is what ministers are hoping could return the UK to normality before a vaccine is made available.

But there has been increased criticism over testing capacity, with people in England being told to travel to Wales or Scotland for their "nearest" testing centre.

Mr Johnson admitted to the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday that demand for tests has "massively accelerated" in the past fortnight amid a surge in cases.

"I know that many people have had infuriating experiences, and I do sympathise with them," he said, but promised capacity would reach 500,000 a day by the end of October.

Opposition MPs have described the testing "fiasco" as "increasingly out of control", with members of the public calling it a "shambles".

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