Coronavirus: Government launches track and trace program in England today

28 May 2020, 05:37

The Government scheme will launch ahead of the planned start date
The Government scheme will launch ahead of the planned start date. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Anyone in England who has been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 will be asked to isolate for 14 days as the Government scheme launches.

NHS Test and Trace has been seen as a key component of easing the coronavirus lockdown restrictions. and it will be rolled out across England on Thursday.

On Thursday morning Health Secretay Matt Hancock told LBC the track and trace program will help the country "move away from blanket national lockdown towards a more targeted lockdown hunting down the virus where we find it."

Mr Hancock told Nick Ferrari it was the public's "civic duty" to co-operate with the track and trace process.

More than 25,000 so-called, contact tracers will begin contacting those who have been infected with Covid-19 and tracing those they have been in contact with.

They will ask anyone in England who has been in close contact with someone who has been infected with Covid-19 to isolate for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.

But there were problems today as many track and trace staff said they had been unable to start work for technical reasons which officials were urgently trying to resolve.

The Prime Minister has acknowledged that being told to self-isolate was a "huge imposition" but said people should be aware of why the programme was needed.

The NHS Test and Trace system is part of a bid to cut off routes of transmission for the virus and control local flare-ups.

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How does it work?

Under the scheme, anyone with coronavirus symptoms will immediately self-isolate and book a test, preferably at a testing centre or, if necessary, for delivery to their home. Their household should start a 14-day isolation period too.

If the test proves negative, everyone comes out of isolation.

But if the test is positive, NHS contact tracers or local public health teams will call, email or send a text asking them to share details of the people they have been in close contact with and places they have visited.

The team then emails or texts those close contacts, telling them they must stay home for 14 days even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

Amid reports by Sky News that some contact tracers do not have their basic systems up and running yet, the Department of Health insisted that the "vast majority of our 25,000 staff have completed their training".

Also on Thursday, the Government's plans to ease the lockdown will be confirmed in an official review which Downing Street expects will give the all-clear for schools to begin reopening next week.

Downing Street insiders suggested the easing discussed by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was still dependent on the scientific advice, as was the use of private gardens for socialising.

The road map to easing the lockdown contained the possibility one household could form a social "bubble" with one other in a mutual group, but it was understood that term was being quietly dropped.

The PM has said all non-essential shops in England can reopen from June 15 after he closed them with the imposed lockdown on March 23.