Britain’s £37 billion-worth test and trace system,
the country’s second line of defence against COVID-19, is under stress just as
the country ditches all pandemic curbs from Monday, July 19.
As England limps into the so-called ‘Freedom Day’, the
test and trace system has gathered greater significance. This at a time when
rules around mask-wearing and social distancing will keep getting relaxed.
One of the things going right for the UK is its
vaccination programme. 69% of adults in UK have received both doses of vaccinations.
This level of protection against the virus was unthinkable last summer.
But as we know now, it is indeed possible to have
received both doses of the vaccine and still contract the infection and spread
it. Breakthrough infections have seen a rise ever since the Delta variant
started steering the surge in cases.
The moment at which UK is giving up its pandemic curbs,
the country reported 54,674 new cases on Saturday, a higher rate per million
people than anywhere else except Cyprus, Fiji, Seychelles and Botswana,
according to University of Oxford’s Our World In Data project, The Guardian reported.
The relaxation of pandemic curbs raises troubling
questions for the test and trace system. The primary goal of the system was to
help break chains of transmission. However, since its establishment, there have
been two national lockdowns and 4.5 million cases.
Britain’s second line of defence against COVID-19
suffers from several systemic problems. The first of them is compliance. Only a
minority of people who have COVID-19 symptoms are turning up to get tested.
One reason for this is, people simply cannot afford
to self-isolate. A related concern is the large number of people deleting the test-and-trace
The second concern is that whether tired local
healthcare systems will be able to shoulder the burden of rising cases any
more. According to the Guardian, the latest figures suggest that even the
well-funded national system is struggling to cope with increased demand.
As England moves on to the
next phase of the pandemic when personal responsibility takes the place of
government diktat, public compliance has become even more important. However,
the increasing strain on health systems coupled with systemic issues with
test-and-trace portend worrying signs.