NHS Test and Trace service launched

The new NHS Test and Trace service has now launched across England, seeking to help identify, contain and control coronavirus, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

From 28 May, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within two metres for more than 15 minutes.

The new guidance means those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus. Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 14 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

The NHS Test and Trace service, including 25,000 dedicated contact tracing staff working with Public Health England, will have the capacity to trace the contacts of 10,000 people who test positive for coronavirus per day and can be scaled up if needed.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we will be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks. NHS Test and Trace will be vital to stopping the spread of the virus. It is how we will be able to protect our friends and family from infection, and protect our NHS. This new system will help us keep this virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally.”

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Covid-19 is best understood as a pattern of local outbreaks, rather than a national pandemic with a similar impact in every community, which is why councils as local leaders have a fundamental role to play in the test and trace service. It is good government has recognised the importance of directors of public health within councils, who need to have the necessary powers and authority to lead the response locally and tackle outbreaks early and aggressively.

“The success of the programme will also depend on the continued support and co-operation of the general public. We believe they would be reassured and encouraged if the roll-out of the service is underpinned by the leadership of their local council.

“Environmental health, emergency planners, trading standards, public health including sexual health services and infection control nurses are just some of the council services which can use their considerable expertise and unparalleled experience, to help in stopping the spread of coronavirus. As we move into the next phase, it is important that councils have the capacity and necessary data to play their full part in this national programme, so they can understand where the outbreaks are happening and be able to act quickly to contain them.”