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Committee says UK’s $30bn digital “track and trace” is ineffective, inept, and a waste

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In what no doubt must be some very stiff competition out there, the UK’s Test and Trace coronavirus project has been slammed as “the most wasteful and inept public spending program of all time.”

Reactions like this – from former UK Secretary to the Treasury Nick Macpherson – came after the UK’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), whose members are MPs from different parties, offered criticism of the scheme, focused on its general, but also cost effectiveness.

Not for nothing, since the projected total cost of Test and Trace is at £37 billion. Reports also said that as of early last month, some 2,500 consultants were still hired to work on the program for an average fee of £1,100 per day.

The National Health Service (NHS), that is behind Test and Trace, has not managed to provide proof that the costly system has actually resulted in curbing transmission of Covid in the UK – that was its purported goal – the PAC observed.

That’s despite the fact both the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the NHS do provide data on how Test and Trace is performing. The problem is that this data is not showing that the transmission rate and therefore infections have slowed down, or that its deployment helped avoid more lockdowns in the UK since the spring of last year.

In fact, the PAC said, two more lockdowns were introduced in the meanwhile.

Test and Trace has been under criticism from the day it rolled out, both on its technical and deployment merits (or the lack thereof) and as a data privacy nightmare.

The PAC quoted the Office for Statistics Regulation who said they were not ready to say whether the system has had any positive effect on slowing down the spread of the virus.

The PAC report mentioned some of the failings of Test and Trace: it doesn’t show how much time passes between a person developing symptoms and being told to self-isolate after the virus has been confirmed by testing. It also fails to show how long it takes for a person to be advised to self isolate, after it had been determined they had been in contact with an infected person.

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