JUST over half of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 have been reached through the NHS Test and Trace system in Herefordshire, falling short of the Government's target.

The latest figures show 54 per cent of close contacts in the county were reached May 28 and August 19.

The figures are for "non-complex cases" - cases handled online or by call centres - and cover the 12 weeks of Test and Trace.

Since the launch of Test and Trace, 94 close contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have been reached across the county through the tracing system and asked to self-isolate.

This is 54 per cent out of a total of 175 people identified as close contacts.

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has set a target of isolating 80 per cent of contacts of coronavirus cases within 48-72 hours in the UK.

The figures, published by the Department of Health and Social Care, show that 65,398 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England have had their cases transferred to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system since its launch.

Of this total, 50,876 people (77.8 per cent) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts while 12,851 (19.7 per cent) were not reached.

A further 1,671 people (2.6 per cent) could not be reached because their communication details had not been provided, the figures covering the period May 28 to August 19, showed.

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery described the figures as "worrying to see that too many people are still not being reached by the system".

She added: "It's also a real concern that overall turnaround times for swabs taken in the community are taking longer. This is a key component of an effective test and trace system which we'll need for the months ahead. Clearly, we're not there yet."

Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding, said: "This week marks a milestone for NHS Test and Trace, which has now been in operation for more than three months.

"The statistics published today show that every week we consistently reach the majority of people testing positive and their contacts, and have now reached almost 300,000 people who may have unknowingly passed the virus on.

"This country now has the capacity to test for coronavirus and trace contacts on an unprecedented scale to stop the spread of the virus.

"We will continue to build the service further to reach more and more people and to scale up our testing capacity by expanding our network of testing sites and investing in new technologies."