Boris Johnson has been accused of not having control of the coronavirus situation (Image: Getty)

Doctors warn new UK coronavirus peak 'inevitable' unless Test and Trace chaos ends


Medics warn of a second Covid-19 peak within months unless the Prime Minister sorts out his Test and Trace fiasco.

It comes as ministers consider telling 4.5 million at high risk to shield at home as cases rise.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chair, said: “We want to avoid a return to the scenes in April, when hospitals were full.”

The biggest worry this winter for 86% is a return to the “horror and tragedy” of the pandemic’s early days in April, when ­intensive care wards were overflowing.

And the 8,000 medics polled by the British Medical Association said a functioning Test and Trace system is vital to avoid this.

But it emerged on Sunday the scheme – which Boris Johnson has described as “world-beating” – has a backlog of 185,000 swabs and is so overstretched tests are being sent to labs in Italy and Germany.
Revellers in Newcastle city centre on Saturday evening ahead of the Rule of six which begins from Monday in England (Image: North News & Pictures)

Hospitals are already trying to balance treating Covid-19 with tackling a record number waiting for routine ops, which has hit 2.15 million – triple last summer’s figure.

And the BMA’s stark warning came as ministers consider telling 4.5 million high-risk people to shield at home.

BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “These results expose the fears of frontline clinicians, fears from experiences of treating patients with Covid and watching, the first time, as the virus spread with alarming speed while the Government delayed efforts to overcome it.
Doctors fear that hospitals will be overwhelmed as they were in March and April (Image: Getty Images)

"We want above all to avoid a return to the scenes we saw in April.”

From today, the rule of six is in force in England, limiting social gatherings. Infection rates have spiralled in recent days, with 3,330 cases recorded yesterday – the third consecutive day topping 3,000.

Current testing has been blasted with thousands unable to book online or get a test near home.

Many had to travel long distances to centres – with some finding swabs were not available after driving more than 100 miles.

More than 60% polled by the BMA agreed the failure of Test and Trace would be a significant factor in a fresh peak.

And 80% said a fit-for-purpose system would have a major impact in preventing a second wave. A consistent approach to local outbreaks and clearer public information were also urged.
Vulnerable people may be asked to shield again (Image: Getty Images)

A leaked Department of Health report shows most British labs are clearing fewer tests than stated capacity due to “chaos” in supply chains.

The Government claims it has capacity for 375,000 a day but the actual number stalled to just 437,000 a week at the start of the month – equivalent to 62,000 a day.

Yesterday in Bolton, infections surged to 192 weekly cases per 100,000, our highest. Yet no tests were available on the online booking system Thursday to Saturday.
Shoppers wear face masks in Blackburn, but doctors say the Government needs to track and trace people in order to stop the killer virus (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Professor Sir Chris Ham, ex-chief executive of the King’s Fund, said one of the main reasons for the fiasco was using private firms.

He said: “It was a mistake to outsource contact tracing to Serco and other companies rather than invest in local authorities and directors of public health who know communities... There hasn’t been a plan, a coherent strategy, which sets out what is the Government aiming to do.”

Meanwhile, hospitals are running “major incident” stress tests to check if they are ready for a second wave. Cases have been doubling every seven days.

Last Wednesday, 136 were admitted in England – twice as many as on any day in the previous week, with a total of 863 receiving treatment.

It also emerged yesterday the PM shelved plans to order millions of OAPs to stay at home last month and is reportedly considering a more targeted approach.

People identified by risks such as age, weight and health conditions will get letters with specific advice.

The move is thought to be focused on local areas but ministers have not ruled out blanket guidance if coronavirus rates spiral.

The Department of Health said: “Shielding is still advised in specific areas where prevalence of the virus is higher.”

A Government spokesperson said: "We have made significant strides in stopping the spread of coronavirus – this includes delivering 3.3 billion items of PPE to the frontline with 31 billion items ordered, NHS Test and Trace testing hundreds of thousands of people every day, and almost 360,000 people contacted who may have been unwittingly spreading the virus.

“The Prime Minister has announced a further £3 billion winter funding for the NHS to relieve winter pressures on A&E and provide additional capacity for the NHS.

"This is on top of a record cash boost worth £33.9 billion extra by 2023/24."