William Eichler 07 December 2020

Tracing COVID-19 less successful in deprived areas, analysis reveals

Tracing positive COVID-19 cases and their contacts is less successful in more deprived local authority areas when compared to the least deprived areas, according to a new analysis.

Research by the Health Foundation has revealed that a smaller proportion of positive COVID-19 cases and their contacts are reached by NHS Test and Trace in more deprived areas than in less deprived areas.

Published in The Lancet, the analysis found that among the most deprived group of local authorities in England, 83% of positive cases were reached as compared to 86% in the least deprived.

There was also a marked difference when it came to reaching the contacts of those who had tested positive. Over half (56%) were reached in the most deprived areas as compared to 62% in the least deprived.

The Health Foundation estimates that between 28 May and 18 November, an additional 9,000 positive COVID-19 cases and 42,500 contacts in the most deprived areas could have been reached if they had had the same success rates as the least deprived.

‘There may be many possible reasons why a lower percentage of people are reached by NHS Test & Trace in more deprived areas, but the information available doesn’t enable us to understand this in more detail,’ said senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, Adam Briggs.

‘Knowing why people in more deprived areas seem to have less contact with NHS Test and Trace is crucial to ensuring the system isn’t inadvertently widening inequalities, particularly as COVID-19 already hits vulnerable communities hardest.

‘Policies need to be developed to improve engagement with contact tracing, and to help people to isolate when necessary. This may include better use of local expertise and knowledge, and addressing any gaps in available social, practical, and financial support for people isolating.’

Photo: Ben Thornley / Shutterstock.com

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