TEST and Trace has failed to reach hundreds of people in Essex who have been exposed to the virus.

Just two-thirds of close contacts of people with coronavirus in Essex are being reached through the test and trace regime, figures suggest.

Data from the Department for Health and Social care shows 1,364 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Essex were transferred to the Test and Trace service between May 28 and September 9.

Coronavirus patients reached by the service are urged to give details for anyone they were in close contact within the 48 hours before their symptoms started.

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A further 2,832 close contacts were identified in this way in the county.

But the figures reveal 66 per cent of those were reached by contact tracers over the period.

It means 971 people did not acknowledge they also needed to self-isolate.

A close contact is not reached when there is no response to text, email or call reminders, or when their communication details were not available.

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Across England 64 per cent of non-complex close contacts were reached and told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace in the latest week to September 9.

Saffron Cordery, chief executive of NHS Providers, said this falls “well short” of SAGE’s 80 per cent target.

She said: “Trust leaders are increasingly concerned with the current testing shortages impacting on NHS service recovery and winter preparations due to staff and their family members being unable to access a test.

“With the number of positive Covid-19 cases increasing, but a reduction in the proportion being contact traced, we are looking at renewed pressure on the NHS.”

Baroness Dido Harding, who heads up the NHS Test and Trace service, admitted last week that demand for tests was outstripping capacity but denied claims that the system was “failing”.

She suggested around a quarter of those coming forward for a test did not have symptoms.

Under new rules, from September 28 people in England will legally have to self-isolate for 14 days if they test positive for coronavirus, or they are instructed to do by NHS Test and Trace.

Fines for non-compliance will start at £1,000, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders.