Boris Johnson reveals coronavirus tracing scheme will launch TOMORROW: Thousands of people who have been near someone with coronavirus could be ordered to isolate for 14 DAYS – even if they have no symptoms
- NHS Test and Trace programme will launch tomorrow morning without app
- Roll out of app has been delayed after problems during Isle of Wight pilot
- Means system will initially be reliant on human testimony to slow spread of virus
- Anyone with coronavirus symptoms will be told to self-isolate for seven days
- They will be urged to get tested with positive tests prompting contact tracing
- They will have to provide details of people they have been close to recently
- Those people will then be contacted and told they must self-isolate for 14 days
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The UK’s coronavirus contact tracing programme will launch tomorrow without its centrepiece NHS app as experts warned it will not be a ‘silver bullet’ which kills off the disease.
The NHS Test and Trace system for England will see anyone who develops symptoms urged to self-isolate for seven days and told to order a test online or by phone.
Anyone who then tests positive will be asked to provide phone numbers and email addresses to the NHS for people they have recently come into close contact with.
Those contacts will then be tracked down and told to self-isolate for 14 days – even if they do not have symptoms.
Boris Johnson announced the launch of the scheme during an appearance in front of the Liaison Committee this afternoon.
He said self-isolation resulting from the programme would be an imposition for a ‘tiny minority’ but that the benefits would be worth it.
The PM said: ‘I would just say to everybody that it’s worth it because that is the tool that other countries have used to unlock the prison.
‘That captivity for a tiny minority for a short time will allow us gradually to release 66 million people from the current situation.’
The Government is pinning its hopes of ending the nationwide lockdown on the success of the scheme.
But it will go live tomorrow, earlier than the June 1 launch date which had been anticipated, without the NHSX coronavirus app which digitally records close contacts and will massively speed up the contact tracing process.
The Government originally wanted the app, which has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, to roll out nationwide in the middle of this month.
But problems with its development have seen it delayed which means the new scheme will initially be entirely reliant on an army of 25,000 contact tracers to track people down and prevent a second wave of infections.
However, there remain major question marks over how the system will work in practice with ministers not intending to fine people who refuse to self-isolate.
Meanwhile, councils and public health officials will be tasked with containing any localised outbreaks of the disease in the future, with local authorities warning they must be given the required powers to act.
Boris Johnson today announced that the NHS Test and Trace programme will formally launch in England tomorrow
HOW NHS TEST AND TRACE WILL WORK
The NHS Test and Trace programme will be split into two parts. They are:
Step One: Isolate. When someone gets symptoms they should self-isolate for seven days. Anyone in the same household should do the same.
Step Two: Test. They should order a coronavirus test online or by calling 119.
Step Three: Results. If a test is positive they must complete seven days in isolation. Anyone in the same household should complete 14 days. If it is negative no one needs to isolate.
Step Four: Contacts. People with a positive test will be contacted via text or email or by phone and told to answer questions and share phone numbers and email addresses for close contacts.
Part Two – For People Flagged As Contacts
Step One: Alert. People flagged will get a text or email. They will then be told what they need to do.
Step Two: Isolate. They will be asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days based on when they last came into contact with the person. Other household members do not need to self-isolate unless symptoms are present.
Step Three: Test. If they develop symptoms all other household members should self-isolate. They should then order a test. If it is positive self-isolation must continue for seven days. If negative you must still complete 14 days unless virus not yet showing.
The NHS Test and Trace scheme has an overall staff of approximately 50,000 people, comprising of 25,000 contact tracers, 20,000 people administering tests and between 4-7,000 clinicians who will provide expert advice.
The Government hopes that it will soon have the capacity to test 200,000 people for coronavirus every day, using 50 drive-through sites, more than 100 mobile testing units and three so-called ‘mega labs’.
The aim is for test results to be ready within 24 hours although officials have admitted it will take some time to hit that goal.
Speed will be of the essence in avoiding a second wave of the disease with contact tracing working best when people who may have been exposed to infection are swiftly removed from society.
As of tomorrow anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to share information about their recent interactions.
Close contact will be defined as anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes at a distance of less than two metres with someone who has subsequently tested positive.
People identified as having been in close contact will then be told to stay at home for 14 days even if they do not have symptoms to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.
If those in isolation do then develop symptoms they will be able to book a test online or by calling 119.
if they test positive they must continue to self-isolate for seven days or until symptoms have passed. If they test negative they must complete 14 days in isolation just in case the virus could not be detected yet.
Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the contacted person becomes symptomatic. Then all household members must self-isolate for 14 days.
Everyone who has to isolate will be entitled to statutory sick pay or if they are self-employed they will get access to a Government grant.
Every local area will have a coronavirus action plan setting out what will happen if there is a localised spike in infections.
The focus will be on containing the outbreak.
If testing data shows there has been a localised spike in cases a public health investigation will be triggered to examine the circumstances and to immediately crackdown on it.
Local testing efforts will be stepped up to determine the extent of the spread and to make sure everyone who is infected is put into self-isolation.
If the data suggests the outbreak is linked to a certain service or premises it will be shut and subject to deep cleaning before being allowed to reopen.
The scheme will have the capacity to trace the contacts of 10,000 people who test positive for coronavirus per day. That capacity could be scaled up if it is deemed necessary.
Royal Society scientists today suggested the contact tracing programme may only bring down infections by as little as five per cent.
World-leading experts from the prestigious scientific academy warned the scheme was ‘not a silver bullet’ and will only have a ‘modest’ effect on the UK’s crisis.
The scientists said that testing times were still too slow and there is a good chance many Britons do not adhere to self-isolation rules.
They modelled what effect contact tracing would have on Britain’s epidemic and found that, even if compliance is 80 per cent and the Government speeds up its testing, the number of new cases will only drop by up to 15 per cent.
The report, by the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) group, has been handed to SAGE scientists ahead of the rollout of the contact tracing programme tomorrow.
Nobel Prize laureate Venki Ramakrishnan, chair of the DELVE committee, said the UK’s scheme should by no means ‘be considered as a silver bullet’.
Despite the high stakes nature of the coronavirus outbreak and the damage a second wave would do, the Government does not intend to fine people for failing to comply with self-isolation – at least initially.
Mr Johnson told MPs that ministers could move to impose penalties if people flout the rules.
‘If they do not follow the advice we will consider what sanctions will be necessary,’ he said.
The fact that the system without the app is entirely reliant on human testimony has raised concerns, with people needing to remember who they have seen, where and when in order for it to work effectively.
Concerns have also been expressed that the data revealed during the contact tracing process could be passed onto the police to crackdown on non-compliance with lockdown rules.
For example, if someone has visited a friend’s house during lockdown but is then flagged as a contact for a positive test and they then have to reveal their rule breaking.
However, the data obtained by the NHS during the contact trading programme will be treated as confidential and will not be shared with other organisations.
The new contact tracing system does raise the prospect of some people facing more than one spell in self-isolation if they are flagged by more than one person who tests positive.
However, if that does happen under the new scheme it will likely trigger a local investigation by public health officials and council staff.
They will be responsible for stopping localised outbreaks by increasing tests, getting more people into quarantine, identifying sources of the infection and then conducting deep cleaning.
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