The United Kingdom is firing a third of the contact tracers hired to track the spread of the coronavirus after reports that they had very little to do and were spending their time watching Netflix and doing quizzes.
Experts have opined that contact tracing is an essential technique to aid in stopping the spread of coronavirus. It involves tracers contacting people who might have been exposed to others infected with the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed in May that the UK would implement a top of the line contact tracing program.
“We have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and test operation that will be world-beating and yes, it will be in place by June 1,” said Johnson at the time.
He said the government expected to hire 25,000 contact tracers that would be able to trace 10,000 new daily cases.
Barbecue, Netflix and quizzes
Three months later, he is facing criticism after numerous reports that many of those hired for the program have nothing to do.
One contact tracer told The Guardian that he heard many stories of others making very few calls.
“I’ve heard of tracers claiming to be sat in the garden having a barbecue so that they can stay logged in and clock up the hours,” they said. “They aren’t alone – there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of similar stories.”
Another report in the BBC documented a clinician who said her boss didn’t give her anything to do for a week after being hired on as a contact tracer.
“I’ve had no contact from anyone. I’ve had no contact from supervisors,” she said. “I’ve literally been on the system, refreshed the system, and entertained myself during that watching Netflix.”
“All Boris [Johnson] has done has hired thousands of people so he can say ‘we have this’ but you have got thousands of people doing nothing,” said another whistleblower to MailOnline.
On Monday, the National Health System announced that it would fire a third of those hired for contact tracing, from 18,000 down to 12,000.
In May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed that the state had hired thousands of contact tracers he called “disease detectives,” who could help determine who needed to be quarantined to stop the spread of the virus.
Here’s a video interview with a contact tracer from the UK:
Covid-19 contact tracer “has made just two calls since May” – but was still offered overtime | LBC