Coronavirus news you may have missed overnight: Government target of 500,000 daily tests in jeopardy as test and trace workers report fresh issues with troubled service

Sam Hancock
·5-min read
A driver receives a Covid-19 self-test kit from a worker wearing an NHS Test and Trace branded Hi-Vis jacket at a drive-in testing facility in Chessington (AFP via Getty Images)
A driver receives a Covid-19 self-test kit from a worker wearing an NHS Test and Trace branded Hi-Vis jacket at a drive-in testing facility in Chessington (AFP via Getty Images)

Coronavirus continues to rip through parts of the UK with Warrington now set to move into tier 3 lockdown, while the mayor of Liverpool confirms he isn’t opposed to moving the city into new tier 4 restrictions “if necessary”.

Further afield, protests have erupted in areas of Italy as the country imposes tighter restrictions to curb an outbreak of more than 17,000 new cases, confirmed on Monday.

Here’s the coronavirus news you may have missed overnight:

Government target of 500,000 daily tests in jeopardy as new figures reveal shortfall

The government is adamant it will meet its target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of the month – despite figures showing it was reaching only 280,000 with little over a week to go until November begins.

Covid alert tier levels in England by local areaThe Independent
Covid alert tier levels in England by local areaThe Independent

As of Friday, Downing Street was 220,000 tests short of its ambitious October goal, while the UK’s testing capacity stood at 360,000.

This comes amid concerns that too few rapid test machines have been placed in hospitals, with a number of authorities said to have rejected the devices due to operational concerns.

But Downing Street has said it remains committed to the target, which was first set by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, in July.

“The target still stands,” said the prime minister’s official spokesperson. “We’ve set out that it’s our intention to meet that figure by the end of the month.”

Test and trace workers report new problems with troubled service

Frontline workers at England’s beleaguered test and trace service have complained about technical problems over the weekend potentially causing delays to contact tracing thousands of patients who have tested positive for the virus.

As the test and trace service battles a surge in daily positive test results, workers reported a system failure on Sunday which led to a problem with cases being put through for clinical assessment and contact tracing.

The problem started at around 10am on Sunday and was still being experienced by some staff on Monday. The Independent spoke to contact tracers and also saw messages between workers on Sunday and Monday confirming the lack of cases coming on to the system which is provided by company Sitel.

One worker said: “I wondered why we were so quiet when we know there are about 20,000 positive cases every day at the moment. There was something wrong with the Sitel system and uploading the cases.

“It was dead, absolutely dead. Only the odd case came through compared to normal when there is one after another, it’s never ending.”

Exposure to air pollution increases coronavirus deaths by 15% worldwide, study suggests

Long-term exposure to polluted air has previously been linked to an increase in coronavirus deaths, but new research estimates for the first time the extent to which pollution has increased the proportion of deaths during the pandemic.

The study estimates that about 15 per cent of deaths worldwide from Covid-19 could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.

In Europe the proportion was about 19 per cent, in North America it was 17 per cent, and in east Asia about 27 per cent, while in Australia it was 3 per cent.

The research team, from various institutions in Germany and Cyprus, said these proportions were an estimate of “the fraction of Covid-19 deaths that could be avoided if the population were exposed to lower counterfactual air pollution levels without fossil fuel-related and other anthropogenic emissions”.

But they said their research did “not imply a direct cause-effect relationship” between air pollution and Covid-19 mortality –though they conceded it was possible. Instead, the percentages refer to both the direct and indirect impacts of air pollution, which can aggravate other health conditions which, with the virus, could then lead to fatalities.

Belgium asks doctors with coronavirus to keep working as cases surge

Doctors in Belgium have been asked to keep working even after they test positive for coronavirus, as the number of cases surge with a second wave of the pandemic sweeping across Europe.

At least 10 hospitals in the worst-hit city of Liège have requested medical staff who have tested positive but are asymptomatic to continue with their work, with about a quarter of all hospital staff now believed to be infected with Covid-19.

“The situation is catastrophic,” Philippe Devos, an intensive care doctor at the CHC Montlégia Hospital in Liège, told the Washington Post. “Liège is now is probably the most affected region in the world. We have a lot of doctors and nurses affected. But, starting this week, positive cases were asked to go back to work if they are asymptomatic.”

Belgium’s health minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the broadcaster RTL the country faced the prospect of a “tsunami” of new infections, as seen in northern Italy at the start of the pandemic, where countries can “no longer control what is happening”.

Mr Vandenbroucke described the situation in the capital, Brussels, and the south of the country as "the most dangerous in all of Europe".

Dr Fauci says the US is still in the first wave of Covid

Dr Anthony Fauci says the US is still in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic as new cases surge to record levels and the country's death toll passes 225,000.

The White House's top infectious disease expert said that the recent increase in daily cases across the US couldn't be considered a second or third wave since the first wave was never effectively passed.

“I look at it more as an elongated — and an exacerbation of — the original first wave,” Mr Fauci said during Yahoo! Finance's All Markets Summit.

He said the country never reduced its nationwide baseline of new cases to below 10,000 per day before some states began reopening, bringing the peak between 30,000 to 70,000 per day. Heading into the fall, cases have increased again to 80,000 per day.

New cases in the US reached about 84,000 on Friday and again on Saturday, according to John Hopkins University data.

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