Officials investigating coronavirus outbreak at NHS contact tracing centre

A shopper walks past an advertisment for the UK government's NHS Test and Trace system in Regent Street in London: Getty
A shopper walks past an advertisment for the UK government’s NHS Test and Trace system in Regent Street in London: Getty

Health officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at an NHS test and trace centre in Lanarkshire.

All staff at the site in Motherwell, which is run by the private outsourcing company Sitel, have been told to work from home while the building is “deep-cleaned”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said employees would be offered a test within the next 24 hours.

One worker told the BBC that at least seven members of staff at the call centre had tested positive for Covid-19.

It comes after The Independent revealed England’s “world beating” coronavirus test and trace service is failing to reach more than half the contacts named by infected residents in Blackburn with Darwen – where health chiefs are battling a major outbreak. The data also showed that less than half of close contacts were being reached in Oldham, St Helens, Manchester and Rochdale.

One senior source said: “The contact tracing service is now part of the problem we are trying to solve, not the solution.”

NHS Lanarkshire said it was notified about the “potentially linked cases” of Covid-19 infections at the call centre in Motherwell on Sunday morning.

David Cromie, consultant in public health medicine, said: “We instigated some immediate measures to reduce risk and are currently investigating the situation.”

The DHSC confirmed the outbreak at the Sitel site in Motherwell in a statement to the Independent on Sunday night.

“This is being managed by Sitel and colleagues in NHS Lanarkshire, who are following appropriate test and protect action in line with Scottish Government advice,” an NHS Test and Trace spokesperson said:

“We take the safety and wellbeing of our staff very seriously. Everyone at the site is currently working from home while a deep clean takes place, and will be offered a test within the next 24 hours.”

Scotland recorded 23 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Sunday, including three in the Lanarkshire health board area.

It is the highest daily figure for new cases since 21 June, when 26 positive results were reported.

The number of confirmed cases has now risen in each of the last five days, although no further deaths of people with the disease have been recorded.

Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch said on Saturday that he was not overly concerned with the fluctuating figures as they were “spread around the country.”

A total of 18,445 people in Scotland have now tested positive for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Rochdale has brought in immediate new measures to avoid a reintroduction of lockdown, as the town’s director of public health warned the “fight against coronavirus is not over”.

The borough follows Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle in urging residents to follow extra precautions such as wearing face coverings in shops and limiting home visitors to two people.

Rochdale Council’s director of public health, Andrea Fallon, said: “The fight against coronavirus is not over.

“Although lockdown measures are being relaxed across the country, we can see from our local data that we need to remain vigilant to the threat posed by the disease.

“We have increased testing and that has shown us that we need to take action and ask everyone to help keep our infection rate down.”

The measures will be reviewed in two weeks.

From June 29 to July 12 the borough had the fourth highest rate of cases per 100,000 population in England, behind only Leicester, Blackburn and Bradford, said the council.

With agencies

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