England’s test and trace service is being sub-contracted to a myriad of private companies employing inexperienced contact tracers under pressure to meet targets, a Guardian investigation has found.
Under a complex system, firms are being paid to carry out work under the government’s £22bn test and trace programme. Serco, the outsourcing firm, is being paid up to £400m for its work on test and trace, but it has subcontracted a bulk of contact tracing to 21 other companies.
Contact tracers working for these companies told the Guardian they had received little training, with one saying they were doing sensitive work while sitting beside colleagues making sales calls for gambling websites:
Teachers in England have described a nightmarish term in schools in which Covid has triggered soaring anxiety levels, exhaustion and fear, driving many to consider quitting and even self-harm.
As schools limp towards Christmas with flagging attendances and rising cases in some areas, teachers said they lived in constant fear of catching the virus in school, and were overstretched and understaffed. They complained of feeling abandoned by the government and unfairly vilified by some parts of the media.
Many of the 200-plus teachers who responded to an appeal from the Guardian to share their experiences expressed anger and despair. “We really have been thrown to the lions,” said one primary school teacher working in Swale, Kent, one of the worst-affected regions in the country:
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In the Australian state of Victoria, the state’s “world-class” contact tracing systems now in place could have been established before the state’s second wave of coronavirus if the health department had been less defensive and listened to advice earlier, a parliamentary committee has found.
The state’s upper house inquiry report, released on Monday, also found that the department should have moved faster to communicate effectively with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and the lack of preparedness “cost lives”: