Anyone in England who develops symptoms should immediately order a Covid-19 test from tomorrow, as the Government launches its ‘test and trace’ strategy.
A positive Covid-19 test will prompt contact tracers to get in touch to map any recent close contacts, with those identified told they must isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus, even if they have no symptoms.
The strategy will enable the Government to ‘learn more about the virus’ and ‘explore how we could go further in easing infection control measures’, it said.
Questioned by MPs on the House of Commons liaison committee this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson clarified that this is only advice at the moment, but that the Government ‘will consider bringing in financial sanctions’ if people don’t do as they are told.
The strategy also includes the Covid-19 app, which is currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight, expected to be launched across England in the ‘coming weeks’.
The Government’s announcement, which said everyone is now eligible for coronavirus testing regardless of age, revealed that the new NHS Test and Trace service already employs 40,000 people. This includes 25,000 contact tracers who will have the capacity to trace the contacts of 10,000 Covid-19-positive people per day.
Under the plans, local government will manage local outbreaks including ramping up testing and considering temporary lockdowns, backed by a £300m investment and supported by a new national Joint Biosecurity Centre.
Using dedicated contact tracing staff, online services and local public health experts to identify any close recent contacts, NHS Test and Trace will alert those most at risk of having the virus, DHSC said.
Health and social care 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.’
Official Covid-19 symptoms that should prompt a test now include a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in sense of smell or taste. People should book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or, if they don’t have access to the internet, by calling 119.
The DHSC said this comes as it ‘will soon have the capacity to carry out 200,000 tests a day’, including 50 drive-through sites, more than 100 mobile testing units and three ‘mega laboratories’.
How NHS Test and Trace works
Part 1 FOR SOMEONE WITH CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS:
STEP 1 ISOLATE: As soon as you experience coronavirus symptoms, you should self-isolate for at least 7 days. Anyone else in your household should self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms.
STEP 2 TEST: You should order a coronavirus test immediately at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access.
STEP 3 RESULTS: If your test is positive you must complete the remainder of your 7-day self-isolation. Anyone in your household should also complete self-isolation for 14 days from when you started having symptoms. If your test is negative, you and other household members no longer need to isolate.
STEP 4 SHARE CONTACTS: If you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS Test and Trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you within 24 hours with instructions of how to share details of people you have been in close, recent contact with and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be asked to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our NHS contact tracers.
Part 2 FOR THOSE CONTACTED IF YOU HAVE BEEN IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS
STEP 1 ALERT:
You will be alerted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will come either by text or email and you’ll need to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website, which is the easiest way for you and the service to communicate with each other – but, if not, a trained call handler will talk you through what you need to do. Under 18’s will get a phone call and a parent or guardian will be asked to give permission for the call to continue.
STEP 2 ISOLATE: You will be asked to begin self-isolation for up to 14 days, depending on when you last came into contact with the person who has tested positive. It’s really important to do this even if you don’t feel unwell, because it can take up to 14 days for the symptoms to develop. This will be crucial to avoid you unknowingly spreading the virus to others. Your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and washing your hands.
STEP 3 TEST IF NEEDED: If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household should self-isolate at home and you should book a coronavirus test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access. If your test is positive you must continue to stay at home for 7 days. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14 day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet.
Source: Department of Health and Social Care