Health Secretary: ‘Unlikely’ whole workplaces will be told to self-isolate under test and trace system

28 May 2020, 09:00

The Health Secretary was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari
The Health Secretary was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Concerns have been raised about the possibility of whole workplaces being told to self-isolate as the NHS test and trace programme launches today.

However, speaking to LBC, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “unlikely” that whole teams would be asked to stay at home if one of their colleagues falls ill with coronavirus.

But the senior minister did say it was the public's "civic duty" to co-operate with the new test and trace scheme.

On covering the wages of employees told to self-isolate, Mr Hancock said it is “very important work constructively with their staff”.

He added it will be "very frustrating,” but even people who have had coronavirus would still need to self-isolate under the programme.

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Asked whether he himself, having had coronavirus, would self-isolate again if told to do so, Mr Hancock said: "Unfortunately, yes. It is very frustrating but the reason for that is we don't yet know whether people like me who have had it still transmit it if they come into contact with it a second time."

Scientists are yet to agree on whether people who have had the virus could catch it again, and whether they would be able to transmit it.

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The Health Secretary added: “It is better to have this sort of targeted isolation than the blanketed measures we've got in place at the moment.”

The test and trace app was launched at 9am on Thursday, with a team of around 25,000 NHS contact tracers.

From today, if people fall ill with coronavirus symptoms the NHS is asking them to self-isolate for seven days along with housemates for 14 days as usual, but order a test online as soon as possible.

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The government is urging people to comply with the new programme, but Mr Hancock said that people will not receive penalties for refusing to abide by the new rules "in the first instance".

Pushed on people's concerns about fraudulent NHS calls, he added: "If anybody calls they will be calling from the number 0300 013 5000.

Anyone over five with symptoms now eligible for coronavirus test, Matt Hancock confirms.

“If you get a text it will come from NHS and they will never ask you for any form of payment or purchase or details of your bank account, and also you will then be given, if you're online, a QR code to be able to confirm those details online."

If a person tests positive for the virus, the NHS test and trace service will send them a text, email or call them with instructions on how to share the details of people who they have had recent close contact with.

NHS contact tracers will then contact people on the list, asking them to self-isolate for 14 days.