Steve January 8, 2021
flawed-comparisons-between-test-and-trace-systems-go-viral

8 January 2021

What was claimed

England’s test and trace system cost £22 billion.

Our verdict

This was the amount allocated to Test and Trace for 2020/21 by the UK government but the actual level of spending has been lower than this. Also some of this money is spent in the other three UK nations.

What was claimed

Wales’s test and trace system cost £102 million.

Our verdict

Incorrect. This was the amount allocated by the Welsh government, but the system in Wales is also part-funded by the UK government.

What was claimed

Ireland’s test and trace system cost £775,000.

Our verdict

Incorrect. This was the cost of developing its contact tracing app. The whole test and trace programme is estimated to cost €700 million per year in Ireland.

A post comparing the cost of Covid-19 test and trace systems in Wales, England and the Republic of Ireland has been going viral on social media. 

We’ve looked at these sorts of claims before. They use uncomparable figures and are highly misleading. 

Ireland

The post in question starts by claiming that “Irish Test and Trace cost £775,000”. 

This is not true. This only covers the cost of the Irish contact tracing app, not the whole system, which the chief executive of the Irish Health Service Executive has said could cost €700 million for the first year.

The Irish app launched in July 2020, when it was announced that it cost around €850,000 (or around £765,000 as of January 2021) to develop and would have an annual running cost of €350,000 to €400,000. 

Wales

The post then says that “Welsh Test and Trace cost £102 million.”

This figure doesn’t provide the full picture. The Welsh government did allocate £102 million to the Welsh Test Trace and Protect programme across its first and second supplementary budgets, but this isn’t its total cost.

A Welsh Government spokesperson told us: “Our funding for Test Trace and Protect includes supporting developments in our NHS Wales testing and sampling system and contact tracing both nationally and locally.”

These elements are only a part of the Test Trace and Protect programme which also includes wider community testing (often referred to as pillar 2 testing which makes up most of the testing regime) and new infrastructure such as laboratories.A spokesperson for the Welsh government added that the UK government  “provides services on a four nations basis for testing sampling and laboratories, and new technology.”  

England

Finally the post claims that England’s Test and Trace system cost £22 billion.

This is the amount of money allocated to Test and Trace in 2020/21 by the UK government, but the amount spent has been considerably lower.

Up to October £4 billion had been spent, one third less than was planned by that point, with considerable underspends on laboratories, machines and mass testing.

As mentioned above, this money is not just spent in England. For example the NAO reports that, to October 2020, £1.3 billion had been spent on laboratories from this budget, which includes labs in all four UK nations.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here.

For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false
because the figures for Wales and Ireland are not comprehensive and the figure for England is the budget for Test and Trace, not the spend, and some of this is to fund testing across the UK.

Can you chip in to help us do more?

You’ve probably seen a surge in misleading and unsubstantiated medical advice since the Covid-19 outbreak. If followed, it can put lives at serious risk. We need your help to protect us all from false and harmful information.

We’ve seen people claiming to be health professionals, family members, and even the government – offering dangerous tips like drinking warm water or gargling to prevent infection. Neither of these will work.

The longer claims like these go unchecked, the more they are repeated and believed. It can put people’s health at serious risk, when our services are already under pressure.

Today, you have the opportunity to help save lives. Good information about Covid-19 could be the difference between someone taking the right precautions to protect themselves and their families, or not. Could you help protect us all from false and harmful information today?

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