Serco has won a £212m ($278m) contract for disease testing and contract tracing from the UK Health Security Agency, the organisations set up to replace the controversial NHS Test & Trace and doomed Public Health England.
In a contract initially set to last two years, the tech and public sector outsourcing provider will be expected to support services in the country including positive case tracing, contact tracing, isolation follow-up, test enquiries, and test bookings.
It has been one of the most enduring Covid conspiracy theories: that the ‘gold standard’ PCR tests used to diagnose the virus were picking up people who weren’t actually infected.
Some even suggested the swabs, which have been carried out more than 200 million times in the UK alone, may mistake common colds and flu for corona.
If either, or both, were true, it would mean many of these cases should never have been counted in the daily tally – that the ominous and all-too-familiar figure, which was used to inform decisions on lockdowns and other pandemic measures, was an over-count.
And many of those who were ‘pinged’ and forced to isolate as a contact of someone who tested positive – causing a huge strain on the economy – did so unnecessarily.
Such statements, it must be said, have been roundly dismissed by top experts. And those scientists willing to give credence such concerns have been shouted down on social media, accused of being ‘Covid-deniers’, and even sidelined by colleagues.
But could they have been right all along?
Scientists did not have accurate Covid case numbers, and were unsure of hospitalisation and death rates when they published models suggesting that more than 500,000 people could die if Britain took no action in the first wave of the pandemic, it has emerged.
On March 16 2020, Imperial College published its “Report 9” paper suggesting that failing to take action could overwhelm the NHS within weeks and result in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Before the paper, the UK coronavirus strategy was to flatten the peak rather than suppress the wave, but after the modelling was made public, the Government made a rapid u-turn, which eventually led to lockdown on March 23.
However SPI-M (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) minutes released to the Telegraph under a Freedom of Information request show that by March 16, modellers were still “uncertain” of case numbers “due to data limitations”.
The minutes show that members were waiting for comprehensive mortality data from Public Health England (PHE) and said that current best estimates for the infection fatality rate, hospitalisation rates, and the number of people needing intensive care were still uncertain.
They also believed that modelling only showed “proof of concept” that lockdowns could help, and warned that “further work would be required”.
The World Health Organization amplified false Chinese statements about COVID-19 initially, while it dragging its feet on declaring an international emergency. Pandemic experts here clung to flu epidemic plans too, ignoring observable COVID-19 successes in East Asia and so ruling out any similar possibility of test-and-trace containment in the UK from the off.
Most public health experts then pivoted to being extremely pro-lockdown, but stuck rigidly to this even as the context, and so the costs and benefits of restrictions, changed with the vaccines and omicron.
Epidemiologists proved especially stubborn. Their modelling usually ignored the role of voluntary behavioural change entirely, so erred on the side of assuming catastrophic public health outcomes absent government mandates and restrictions. Hence, Freedom Day was dubbed “criminal” by scientists, while the government’s scientific advisers called for more restrictions last Christmas. Both proved wrong in retrospect.
In the two years since, ministers have been racing to rectify this. The spread of Covid spurred the Government to funnel more than £200m of taxpayer cash into a new Vaccine Manufacturing & Innovation Centre (VMIC), with hopes of bringing forward the opening date to summer 2021 and delivering millions of doses to get the population jabbed.
Although the money went in, jabs have yet to come out. More than six months after it was slated to open, VMIC’s doors are still closed. Its role in beating Covid has been non-existent.
Now, the mega-vaccine plant is up for sale – a step insiders say was unavoidable. “Without a buyer, VMIC would fail or it wouldn’t open,” one Westminster source says.
The £37billion Test and Trace scheme is already being dismantled – despite fears of a devastating winter Covid crisis.
A leaked dossier has laid bare plans to axe the shambolic system in 2022. But a major step in winding it down will come next week.
The Sunday Mirror understands the contact tracing system run by Sitel and Serco will be wound up early over crippling costs.
Up to 10,000 contact tracers and call handlers were last week told their jobs were being axed, insiders said.
In briefings by managers, teams were told there was “no money left”.
Boston Consulting Group – paid £28million – held a boozy party this month
Images of the lavish bash showed scores of cocktails and string quartet
Unfortunate timing meant two weeks later the spend on the company was slated
Public Accounts Committee said NHS Test and Trace system failed objective
It said it had not ‘broken chains of COVID-19 transmission’ as it had intended
The PAC said it was ‘overly reliant on expensive contractors and temporary staff’
BCG declined to comment when contacted by MailOnline over the party
Lord John Mann said they should ‘hang heads in shame’ and give money back
First major inquiry into the Covid crisis says the tragic losses in care homes were among the highest in Europe
The report finds that deaths could have been prevented but instead elderly were treated as ‘an afterthought’
Finding is just one among catalogue of failings detailed in the inquiry by the health and science committees
The report found test and trace system which cost Government £37billion was also branded ‘chaotic’ fiasco
No10’s Test and Trace system has had barely any impact on thwarting the spread of Covid, according to official estimates.
The controversial £37billion scheme has been heavily criticised over the past year for being ineffective at breaking the chains of transmission.
New Government modelling found the programme – which critics have described as being the biggest ever waste of taxpayer money – may have only slashed cases by as little as six per cent.
Covid testing in schools is hugely disruptive and should be suspended, experts have said, as it emerged that up to 60 per cent of “positive” tests a week are coming back negative when checked.
Under plans to keep schools open, more than 50 million lateral flow tests have been carried out on youngsters, leading to thousands of pupils and their social bubbles being forced to self-isolate for 10 days.
Social distancing and wearing face masks should stay forever, a Communist-supporting SAGE scientist has claimed.
Professor Susan Michie, of University College London, said she thinks the draconian restrictions should become part of people’s every day routine.
This is the first instalment of my three-part investigative report on the Chinese-made Innova lateral flow test. Vast sums of UK taxpayers’ money have been paid to a California start-up for tests that have failed to stand up to scrutiny.
…Innova Medical Group, the company benefiting from the UK Government’s huge testing contract, is owned by the private equity group Pasaca Capital which was founded by a Chinese investment banker, the enigmatic Dr Charles Huang, in 2017. It has been revealed to be the single largest recipient of the Department of Health’s Covid contracts after signing a £496million deal to supply LFTs last year. An earlier contract with Innova cost the taxpayer £107million.
Plans for Covid passports have been significantly scaled back as government ministers privately question whether they should be adopted at all, The Telegraph understands.
Unlocked Exclusive — in a hard-hitting interview, retired NHS pathologist Dr John Lee discusses the government’s response to the pandemic, analyses why proven scientific procedures were abandoned, makes the case for ending Lockdown now, and asks the question most doctors are unable to discuss in public. Covid-19: is the cure worse than the disease?
Senior government officials have raised “urgent” concerns about the mass expansion of rapid coronavirus testing, estimating that as few as 2% to 10% of positive results may be accurate in places with low Covid rates, such as London.
…However, leaked emails seen by the Guardian show that senior officials are now considering scaling back the widespread testing of people without symptoms, due to a growing number of false positives.
…On 9 April, the day everyone in England was able to order twice-weekly lateral flow device (LFD) tests, Dyson wrote: “As of today, someone who gets a positive LFD result in (say) London has at best a 25% chance of it being a true positive, but if it is a self-reported test potentially as low as 10% (on an optimistic assumption about specificity) or as low as 2% (on a more pessimistic assumption).”
A future independent inquiry into the handling of coronavirus is expected to scrutinise Sage and consider whether such a monolithic body should hold so much power. Members of Sage have themselves expressed concern that the group holds too much sway over ministerial thinking and prevents alternative views being given equal weight.
Dido Harding’s Test and Trace system is splashing out nearly a million pounds every day to private consultancy firm Deloitte, newly-released government figures have revealed.
David William’s, a top-ranking civil servant at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), told MPs on Monday that 900 of the firm’s consultants were currently employed – at a rate of £1,000 per day.
The disclosure of the astonishing level of expenditure comes after parliamentarians were told that DHSC expected to spend £15 billion on coronavirus in the next three months on testing alone – particularly the rollout of controversial rapid testing – to tackle the pandemic.
One in five people in England may have had coronavirus, new modelling suggests, equivalent to 12.4 million people, rising to almost one in two in some areas.
It means that across the country as a whole the true number of people infected to date may be five times higher than the total number of known cases according to the government’s dashboard.
In some areas, however, the disparity may be even greater. Parts of London and the south are estimated to have had up to eight times as many cases as have been detected to date.
The analysis, by Edge Health, reveals that the true number of coronavirus infections in England could be as high as 12.4 million, equivalent to 22% of the population, as of 3 January.
- Professor Chris Whitty is paid between £205,000 and £210,000, it was revealed
- Meanwhile the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance is on up to £185,000
- Thirty officials at soon-to-be scrapped Public Health England earn more than £150,000
England’s test and trace service is being sub-contracted to a myriad of private companies employing inexperienced contact tracers under pressure to meet targets, a Guardian investigation has found.
Under a complex system, firms are being paid to carry out work under the government’s £22bn test and trace programme. Serco, the outsourcing firm, is being paid up to £400m for its work on test and trace, but it has subcontracted a bulk of contact tracing to 21 other companies.
Contact tracersworking for these companiestold the Guardian they had received little training, with one saying they were doing sensitive work while sitting beside colleagues making sales calls for gambling websites.