As of this morning – Thursday May 21 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 248,293 with 35,704 deaths.

The NHS Confederation is calling on the government to finalise a test, track and trace strategy to avoid a potential second surge of COVID-19 cases.

In a letter to the health and care secretary, the group has set out the concerns of health leaders of a greater risk of a second wave of infections, “putting the lives of more people at risk”, unless “a clear strategy is in place before lockdown measures are further lifted”.

The strategy, it stresses, must involve local public health directors who are expert in this work.

The NHS Confederation welcomed the announcement that 25,000 contact tracers have been recruited to track 10,000 new cases of coronavirus a day from June, but note that health leaders “are yet to see detail on the strategy that underpins this, including how local authorities can support efforts to ensure that testing is prioritised according to local needs”.

“We are 10 weeks into the pandemic and still we await a clear and supported test, track and trace strategy. We know there is frenetic work underway to deliver this but we should not be in any doubt how crucial getting this right will be,” said the group's chief executive Niall Dickson.

“The relaxation of restrictions based on scientific advice is the right approach but it must be accompanied by an effective test, track and trace strategy which enables us to monitor local spread of the disease. To achieve this we must have national, local and cross-agency involvement. Without this, we do face the risk of a second wave of infections.

“This is about saving lives and protecting the NHS: if we do not set up the right system, involving local agencies, we will put patients and NHS staff at risk.”