The British Government has defended its position on track and trace, after NHS leaders warned that action to control the future spread of coronavirus is coming late in the day.

UK Security minister James Brokenshire said he remains “confident” that a test, track and trace system will be in place by June 1 – the earliest date by which primary schools in England and some non-essential shops will reopen.

However, Mr Brokenshire admitted the NHS app would not be ready in time and suggested “technical issues” were behind its hold-up, just over a week after British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would be rolled out across England in “mid-May”.

It comes as the NHS Confederation issued a stark warning that time is running out to finalise a track and trace strategy to avoid a potential second surge of Covid-19.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the body which represents health and care leaders, has written to Mr Hancock saying there could be “severe” consequences to staff and patients if the right system is not put in place quickly.

He added that the lockdown should not be eased further until a clear plan is in place, which must involve local leaders with experience in contact tracing.

In the letter, he said: “We are 10 weeks into the pandemic, and developing a strategy with a well-worked-through local base should have been in place much sooner.

“If we do not rapidly instigate the right system, involving the right people, then the ramifications for the NHS, including its staff and its patients, could be severe.”

Mr Dickson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the detail was coming too late and urged the Government to “get on” with it.

He said: “We are absolutely clear that contact tracing is the right thing to do, it is absolutely critical, it has got to be in place to prevent any notion of a second surge if the lockdown is being further released.

“I think, like everyone else, we support the Government’s determination to set up an effective system.

“Our concern is that this has been done quite late in the day, we haven’t yet seen the detail.

“In particular, I think we’re concerned at the role of local contact tracing and how that complements what is happening at national level.

“The directors of public health have expressed concern at not being involved until very recently.”

 

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