Fewer close contacts of people with Covid-19 in Essex and Southend are being reached through the struggling test and trace regime, new figures show.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said the heavily-criticised NHS Test and Trace system is "falling apart", as he echoed calls for a circuit breaker lockdown amid another surge in positive cases.

Data from the Department for Health and Social care shows 2,998 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Essex were transferred to the Test and Trace service between May 28 and October 7.

In Southend, it was 508 people.

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

In Essex, 6,442 close contacts were identified – also referred to as "non-complex" cases, meaning they could be dealt with through a call centre or online.

But just 66.5 per cent were reached by contact tracers over the period, meaning 2,155 people were not contacted or did not respond.

That was slightly down from the 68.3 per cent reached in the four months to September 30, but above the 60.5 per cent average across the East of England as whole.

In Southend, 915 close contacts were identified, also referred to as "non-complex" cases.

But just 63.3 per cent were reached by contact tracers over the period – down slightly from 64.4 per cent up to September 30, and 64.7 per cent to September 23.

Across England, 57.6 per cent of non-complex close contacts were reached and told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace in the latest week to October 7.

Including complex cases – those linked to settings such as hospitals, schools or prisons – the contact tracing rate was 62.6 per cent, the lowest percentage since test and trace began.

Mr Madders said: "It is absolutely staggering that week upon week the performance of test and trace keeps getting worse and worse.

"Surely ministers must see that the system is falling apart and what was supposed to be world beating is in fact now one of the biggest obstacles to us getting on top of the virus.

"The need for a circuit break is absolutely critical now and that time should be used to fix test and trace once and for all."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the test and trace system, telling MPs that it has allowed for a "detailed picture" of where and how the virus is spreading.

“This week’s statistics show the testing capacity is up, testing turnaround times are down, and the distance travelled for tests is down too," he added.

But Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders, said: "It’s deeply unfortunate that at this point with infections rising, admissions increasing and winter looming, there’s still clearly a long way to go until our test and trace system is fit for purpose."