FEWER close contacts of people with coronavirus in Swindon are being reached through the test and trace regime amid a rise in cases.

It comes as the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in England increased by more than half in one week, with health chiefs warning “prompt action” is needed to prevent a tide of hospitalisations.

Data from the Department for Health and Social care shows 786 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Swindon were transferred to the Test and Trace service between May 28 and September 30.

Test and Trace asks these patients to give details for anyone they were in close contact with in the 48 hours before their symptoms started.

In Swindon, 2,124 close contacts were identified but just 60.5 per cent were reached by contact tracers over the four-month period, meaning 839 people were not contacted or did not respond.

It meant there was no increase on the 60.5 per cent reached in the period to September 23.

Meanwhile, positive cases increased by 34 over the week – a 5 per cent rise.

Across England, 51,500 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the seven days to September 30, making it the highest total since the regime launched in May. However, only 67 per cent (34,500) were transferred into the contact tracing system.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the large increase in positive tests, alongside worsening test and trace performance nationally, is “worrying.”

“Trust chief executives across the North West, North East and Yorkshire are telling us that Covid-related hospital admissions are rapidly rising,” he added.

“We need prompt action to prevent a full-blown second Covid surge.

“We need every member of the public to play their part – hands, face and space – as they did in the first phase of Covid, however frustrating and burdensome they find any restrictions or public health advice.”

There are now 87 local authority contact tracing teams live across the country, with more due in the coming weeks, according to the DHSC.

Baroness Dido Harding, who is interim executive chairwoman of the National Institute for Health Protection, said demand for tests is rising with the growing number of cases.

She said: “We are working hard to increase testing capacity to meet that demand and improve turnaround times for tests.

“We have now opened 500 test sites across the UK, an extraordinary achievement.”