Coronavirus: test and tracking system starts in England


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A team of 25,000 contact tracers will make their first phone calls within hours to find the people who will be asked to self-isolate under the new test and trace system in England.

Tracers will send text messages, emails or calls to people who test positive for the coronavirus and ask them who they have been in contact with.

All contacts deemed to be at risk of infection will be asked to isolate themselves for 14 days, even if they are not sick.

The Prime Minister said that the system “will change people’s lives.”

The NHS Test and Trace system aims to lift national lock-in restrictions and move towards more localized and targeted measures.

Contacts of those tested positive on Wednesday will be the first to be continued by the NHS Test and Trace team on Thursday, said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Northern Ireland has its own version of the operational program, while Scotland has announced that its own system will start on Thursday and that the Wales program is scheduled to start in early June.

Latest government figures show that 2,013 people tested positive for coronavirus within 24 hours until 9:00 am BST on Wednesday. Because this is considerably lower than the 3,446 tested positive two weeks earlier, the ministers were confident they could launch the program a few days before the scheduled date.

Plans for an app to automatically alert people in contact with someone who tested positive are still being tested on the Isle of Wight and the government still hopes that the system will be operational by next month.

The government’s plans to loosen the foreclosure measures – including to begin a gradual reopening of schools starting next week – will be confirmed in an official review later.

What am I going to do now?

Anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus – a persistent cough, fever, or sudden loss of taste or smell – must isolate for seven days and the rest of their family for 14 days. This is in accordance with the rules already in place.

But from now on, anyone with symptoms should request a test online or by phone to arrange a test by calling 119.

If the test returns negative, everyone in the household can return to normal. But if the test comes back positive, the NHS Test and Trace team or local public health teams will contact – by SMS, email or phone call – to discuss who the person came in close contact with and the places that she visited.

All contacts deemed to be at risk of getting the virus will receive an email or text message with instructions for staying in solitary confinement for 14 days, whether sick or not. They will only be tested if they develop symptoms. The rest of their household does not have to be isolated, unless someone becomes ill.

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Media captionMatt Hancock: “Every person can take a test”

What is close contact?

Only people who have been “close” to an infected person will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

The close contacts are:

  • people you spend 15 minutes or more with within 2 meters
  • people with whom you are in direct contact – such as sexual partners, household members or people with whom you have had face-to-face conversations at a distance of less than 1 meter

Contact must have taken place between two days before and up to seven days after the onset of symptoms.

Will it work?

The success of the program will depend on how quickly contacts can be found and whether the instructions are followed by members of the public, according to a report by the Royal Society.

He concluded that between 5% and 15% of infections could be prevented. But the figure of 15% depends on contact tracing within three days and 80% of people reporting their symptoms or finding themselves isolated when asked. In comparison, isolating cases and quarantining household members would reduce infections by 50%.

Professor Anne Johnson, one of the authors of the report, said that the system “is an important part of containing the pandemic, but we are very sure that it is not a quick fix.”

The national coordinator of NHS Test and Trace said that the system requires rapid testing to be effective.

However, after the Prime Minister said on Wednesday that it was now expected to get the test results in less than 24 hours, Professor John Newton added that it would be “very difficult” to get the results of the kits home test in less than 48 hours.

NHS providers, who represent trusts, welcomed the launch of the system, but said there was still a long way to go to create a custom-tailored plan. The British Medical Association said it was a step in the right direction, but it would require significant resources and follow-up.

Should I do what I am told?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday that it was a “civic duty” for the public to follow the instructions of the NHS Test and Trace team.

“It will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing. But we can quickly make it mandatory if that’s what it takes, “he added.

Scientists, including those who advise the government, have warned that it would be more difficult to gain public support for such measures in the wake of the dispute with Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

Mr. Cummings drove 260 miles from London to County Durham during the UK lockout because, he said, he was concerned about caring for his son’s children when his wife fell ill.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, who wrote in the Daily Mirror on Thursday, said that Cummings “had broken the rules” and said that “the Prime Minister’s reluctance or inability to do the right thing left government untrustworthy, unprincipled. ”

What will be the result of the system?

Currently, the coronavirus is being removed by lockout restrictions that apply across society.

Baroness Dido Harding, President of NHS Test and Trace, said at the briefing on Wednesday that the scheme is designed to allow national lock-in restrictions to be “traded” with individual isolation – allowing “the vast majority to continue their lives in a much more normal way. way “.

The test and trace will also provide much more detail on how and where the virus spread. Hancock said the news could lead to local closures to fight flares in cities, schools or workplaces.

Baroness Harding said data from an NHS contact tracking app being piloted on the Isle of Wight – which is not yet ready to be deployed more widely – suggests that people are less 2 meters less than five others for more than 15 minutes.

She said 25,000 contact tracers were ready to start work – a number “fairly easy” to trace current levels of new virus cases.

“If anything, I fear that many of my brilliant contact markers are not very busy [on Thursday], “She added.

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