THOUSANDS of people in Cheshire who should be self-isolating are being missed by contact tracers.

The national Test and Trace system is failing to reach one-third of people across the county who are identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive for coronavirus.

Latest figures for the under-fire system show how many 'non-complex' close contacts – meaning people who could be dealt with by Test and Trace through a call centre or online – were reached by contact tracers between May 28 and October 7.

In Cheshire West, 4,304 people were flagged up to contact tracers, but only 2,893 were reached by Test and Trace – 67 per cent.

Meanwhile in Cheshire East, 3,987 people were flagged up, but only 2,635 people were reached – 66 per cent.

It means that across the two boroughs, a total of 2,763 people who should have been told by Test and Trace to self-isolate were missed by the service.

Test and Trace's performance has declined in the past month, as 70 per cent of close contacts in Cheshire West and 69 per cent in Cheshire East were reached by September 23.

There is also a similar picture elsewhere in Cheshire, with 1,602 contacts missed in Warrington and 1,195 in Halton by October 7, taking the total number of people missed across the county to 5,560.

Ellesmere Port MP Justin Madders, who is Labour's shadow health minister, believes Test and Trace is now 'falling apart'.

Northwich Guardian:

"It is absolutely staggering that week upon week the performance of test and trace keeps getting worse and worse," he said.

"Surely ministers must see that the system is falling apart and what was supposed to be world beating is in fact now one of the biggest obstacles to us getting on top of the virus.

"The need for a circuit break is absolutely critical now and that time should be used to fix test and trace once and for all."

The national picture for Test and Trace is even worse than the Cheshire one – with just 57.6 per cent of 'non-complex' close contacts being reached across England by October 7.

Test and Trace is also failing to reach a significant number of people who test positive for coronavirus and are referred to contact tracers in the first place.

Of the 1,948 people in Cheshire West who were referred to Test and Trace after testing positive for Covid-19 by October 7, just 1,477 were reached by the service – 76 per cent.

And in Cheshire East, 1,467 people out of 1,777 who tested positive were reached by Test and Trace – 83 per cent.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the system last week, telling MPs that it has allowed for a 'detailed picture' of where and how the virus is spreading.

Northwich Guardian:

He said: "This week’s statistics show the testing capacity is up, testing turnaround times are down, and the distance travelled for tests is down too."

But Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, is concerned about what the figures will mean for hospitals.

She said: "It’s deeply unfortunate that at this point with infections rising, admissions increasing and winter looming, there’s still clearly a long way to go until our test and trace system is fit for purpose."