Thu, 13 June 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Parliament Unwrapped: What did the 2019-2024 Parliament mean for workers’ health, safety, and wellbeing? Partner content
Press releases

New Research From Labour Suggests The UK’s Test And Trace Failings Are Harming The Economy

3 min read

An international tracker of test and trace systems from the University of Oxford has shown the UK’s system is faring worse than those in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada and Germany.

And according to new analysis from Labour, these countries also suffered smaller hits to their economy during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic than the UK. 

In an interview with The House magazine, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has used their findings, which also look at test per case rate figures worldwide, to brand the government’s handling of test and trace an “international embarrassment” that is holding back the country’s economic recovery as well as hampering the fight against Covid-19.

The Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker ranks countries around the world by the quality of their testing and tracing systems.

The UK and New Zealand are classed by this tracker as 2 for testing policy, meaning anyone who shows symptoms of Covid-19 can get a test. Australia, Canada, Germany and South Korea are classed as 3, which means open public testing is available to anyone – including people who don’t have symptoms.

Labour’s analysis is a snapshot of test and tracing and economic decline for certain countries, rather than pointing to a global trend. On contact tracing, the UK is the only country among the group that is classed as 1, or ‘limited contact tracing’ – in other words, where tracing is not done for all cases. All the other countries in the group fall into category 2 – ‘comprehensive contact tracing’ – where all cases are traced.

India for example has had a huge economic hit but has better graded tracing than the UK. 

France has the same grading of testing and tracing as South Korea, according to the Oxford tracker, yet its economy shrank by 13 percent, compared to South Korea’s 3 percent.

Labour has also compared the fall in GDP between the second quarter of 2019 and that of 2020 against the average test per case rate across all OECD countries. The 10 countries with the lowest average test per case rate also suffered the highest overall drop in GDP of 14 percent. This includes the UK.  

Country Q2 growth %
South Korea -3.2%
Australia -7.0%
Germany -9.7%
Canada -11.5%
New Zealand -12.2%
UK -19.8%

By contrast the 10 countries with the highest average test per case rate suffered the smallest drop in GDP – 9.4 per cent. 

Dodds said: “The UK has got the highest excess death rate in Europe and we’re on course for the worst recession in the G7. That’s a double whammy for the British people – and it’s happened on Boris Johnson’s watch.

 “The government can’t stop bragging about how many billions it’s invested in a test and trace system, when it’s handling of that system has been nothing short of an international embarrassment. Our test and trace system compares poorly to those of many other advanced economies. And it’s clear that this failure isn’t just costing lives – it’s costing our economy too.”

A government spokesperson said: “The NHS Test and Trace system has built a testing capacity of 400,000 tests a day, from a starting point of 2,000 a day in March, its capacity is bigger per head than France, Germany, Italy and Spain and we have contacted over 1.1 million people and asked them to self-isolate. It is the equivalent of building an operation the size of Tesco in a matter of months. We need to improve in areas and we are very much focused on that, but we should be talking it up not down.

“We have, and will continue to, work closely with local leaders, directors of public health and local government to tackle local outbreaks with targeted restrictions whilst minimising the impact to livelihoods and the economy. Fighting Covid-19 requires everyone to play their part, if you have symptoms you should get tested and self-isolate.”

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Engineering a Better World

The Engineering a Better World podcast series from The House magazine and the IET is back for series two! New host Jonn Elledge discusses with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

NEW SERIES - Listen now

Partner content
Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

Find out more