U.K. contact tracer jobs shrouded in confusion

Secretary of State for Health and Social Affairs Matt Hancock arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on May 21, 2019 in London, England.

Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

There has been a lot of confusion about what is going on with contact tracer jobs for coronaviruses in the UK, which have been described as a crucial pillar of the government’s initiative to monitor, track and trace .

On April 28, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock pledged to recruit 18,000 human contract tracers by mid-May to keep tabs on Covid-19 patients and their contacts.

This included approximately 15,000 call managers and 3,000 health professionals.

They are expected to work alongside a new National Health Service app, which is being tested on the Isle of Wight and is expected to be released nationwide at the end of this month. It is expected that if you have symptoms of Covid-19, you should notify the application and contact the tracers, then contact the people you have close to and warn them that they may be at risk if ‘infection.

However, despite the large number of jobs apparently available in this field, it was not immediately clear how members of the public should go about applying for either type of role. Weeks have passed and online job listings have remained elusive, raising fears that the government will meet its target by a certain margin.

These fears appear to have arisen on Friday when the Secretary of Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, said only 1,500 of the 18,000 roles or about 8% – had been filled.

“I don’t think we’re at 18,000 at the moment, I think there are about 15,000 requests, we plan, as you say, to have up to 18,000,” said Lewis to Sky News.

When asked for a more specific response, Lewis said, “As of this morning, I’m not sure how many of the 15,000 people were hired earlier in the week, it was about 1,500, it would have increased since then. “

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove sought to clarify the situation on Sunday, telling Sky News that the government had in fact hired more than 17,000 contact tracers – a big leap from Lewis’ figure of 1,500 two days earlier. early only.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Welfare told CNBC on Monday that the figures provided by Lewis were out of date.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday that the government was “very confident” that the 18,000 “trackers” would be in place this week as planned.

Meanwhile in Scotland not one plotter contact was hired.

Lack of transparency

The British government has been criticized for its lack of transparency regarding its strategy to fight the coronavirus.

He says he works in partnership with a number of organizations that are “experts” in handling calls, but did not specify which ones. He added that he had used a number of recruiting firms to fill the positions but, again, he had not appointed them.

There is also little evidence to show the effectiveness of contact search applications at this stage.

The NHS application is based on a “centralized” framework, which means that people’s information will be stored on servers managed by the State. It is to be feared that the application will not be interoperable with applications from other countries, or even not work at all.

The Guardian reported Sunday he had seen emails from the recruiting firm HR Go to candidates indicating that the hiring of contact tracers had been suspended while the government was considering the application to be used.

“Thank you for your online application for this role. Unfortunately, earlier today, the roles were suspended. This is due to a delay in launching the” Track and Trace “application itself while the government is considering an alternative application, “said an email. would have said.

Other countries have developed their own contact tracing applications with mixed success.

In the United States, the states have been invited to hire 180,000 contact tracers, by a bipartisan group of eminent health experts and civil servants.

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