Contact tracers failing to reach thousands of South Londoners who could have coronavirus

By Jessie Mathewson, Local Democracy Reporter and Toby Porter

Contact tracers are failing to reach thousands of South Londoners who could have coronavirus – with more than a third of potentially infected residents unaware they need to self-isolate.

In every borough, at least a quarter of people who could be sick were not contacted by test-and-trace – well over 4,000 so far.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 should be called by contact tracers and asked who the person has been in touch with recently.

Close contacts will then be notified that they may have the virus and told they should also self-isolate.

But test-and-trace teams are struggling to reach people who have coronavirus in the capital to find out who they’ve been in touch with – one in five sick residents was not successfully contacted.

In Lewisham, of 147 who tested positive, only 116, or 79 per cent, have been contacted.

Southwark is doing just as badly – it has had 180 people with Covid-19, but only 142 have been traced – again, only 79 per cent.

The contact rate in Bexley is slightly better at 80 per cent – 137 of the borough’s 171 sick patients have been spoken to.

Croydon (163 sick, 132 contacted) and Bromley (126 ill, 102 called) are also both on 81 per cent.

South London’s best-performing boroughs, with 84 per cent traced, are Lambeth, Greenwich, Merton and Wandsworth – which had the highest number of infections, at 187 cases.

Among the worst five boroughs are:

  • Westminster, where 73 per cent of people who tested positive were contacted
  • Kensington and Chelsea, where 75 per cent of people who tested positive were contacted

The most successful boroughs in London were Merton and Bromley, but even in these areas less than three quarters (73 per cent) of potentially infected residents were contacted.

The best borough is Camden, where tracers reached 86 per cent of ill people in the borough.

When it comes to tracking the people that ill patients might have passed it on to, Lewisham is also one of the worst – just 59 per cent of potential sufferers who could have picked it up from patients were tracked, or 195 out of 328 at-risk people.

Greenwich found 62 per cent and Bexley 66 per cent. Southwark found 68 per cent; Lambeth and Wandsworth 70 per cent; and Bromley and Merton 73 per cent.

London overall is faring better than the rest of England, reaching 80 per cent of people who tested positive for the disease compared to 77 per cent in the rest of England.

Test-and-trace is also better at following up with people who could have the virus in the capital – reaching 63 per cent of residents compared to 57 per cent in the rest of England.

Anyone who has the symptoms of coronavirus – a cough, high temperature, or loss of smell or taste – should self-isolate immediately and order a test to check if they have the disease.

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