Test and trace, according to the leaked minutes of Sage’s meeting on 21 September, has had a ‘marginal’ impact on the infection rate of Covid-19. But let no one say it has not achieved anything. It has succeeded in the virtually impossible: making HS2 look relatively good value for money. Documents revealed to Sky News have shown that consultants from the Boston Consulting Group who have been working on the scheme have been paid day rates of up to £7,360 – which if annualised would work out at a salary of £1.5 million. It makes them the highest-paid public sector workers in the country, earning ten times as much as the Prime Minister. It also put into the shade the daily rates of Deloitte, who were revealed last week to have a thousand employees working on test and trace, being paid up to £2,360 a day.
In all, test and trace has so far cost the taxpayer £12 billion. And what have we got for our money? According to the latest statistics for test and trace, 51,475 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the week 24 to 30 September. Of these, 34,494 were referred to test and trace, of which 74 per cent were successfully contacted and asked to give details of their contacts. test and trace identified 101,782 contacts and succeeded in reaching 68.6 per cent of them and asking them to self-isolate.
How many actually did so is not recorded in the government’s statistics, although a separate study from last week suggests that just 10.9 per cent of people who have been asked to self-isolate did not leave home for the full 14 days.
Little wonder, then, that Sage has concluded test and trace has made only a marginal difference to infection rates. Its main achievement has been to funnel vast riches into the pockets of consultants who might otherwise have been facing tough times as a result of the recession. It is yet one more demonstration of how public funds have been frittered away during this crisis with little regard as to value for money. All normal checks and balances seem to have gone out of the window and an attitude of we-must-defeat-the-virus-at-all-costs instigated in its place. Little wonder either that the estimated deficit for this financial year, according to the IFS, has already risen to £350 billion and is unlikely to end there. We have the most profligate government in our history – and, shockingly, it is a Conservative one.