25,000 recruited ahead of launch of new coronavirus test and trace system

Contact tracers will aim to track down those who may have been in recent prolonged close contact with someone who has tested positive for co Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

An army of 25,000 contact tracers have been recruited ahead of the launch of a new test-and-trace system aiming to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Government has said.

The system, which involves tracing and advising people who may have come into close contact with someone testing positive for the virus, is set to launch at the end of this week.

The Government has been aiming for human contact tracers to be in place for June 1 – the earliest date for opening schools and non-essential shops in England.

Widespread contact tracing was abandoned in mid-March as the number of Covid-19 cases soared in the UK, but a test, track and trace (TTT) strategy is now seen as playing a crucial role in efforts to ease lockdown while avoiding a second wave of infections.

Credit: Andrew Nordbruch/PA

The Government is also currently trialling a contact-tracing app designed by the NHS’ digital arm, NHSX, on the Isle of Wight that has been hit by delays.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has sought to play down the importance of the delayed app in the contact-tracing process.

He had originally said the app would be rolled out by mid-May, but it has now been delayed by several weeks.

The public will be asked to work closely with the newly-recruited contact tracers, who will run a national virtual call centre operation, the Government said.

The contact tracers will request that individuals testing positive for Covid-19 share information about who they have been in recent, prolonged close contact with and who might have been exposed to the virus.

This is most likely to be either be members of someone’s own household or work colleagues, the Government said.

By informing those who might have been exposed, contact tracers can ensure they receive advice and guidance to keep them safe and to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Detailed guidance on the actions the public will need to take will be provided this week, the Government said.

A No 10 spokesperson said on Saturday: “A test and trace system allows us to isolate new infections so that we can control the spread of this virus, which will be vital while coronavirus remains present in the UK.

“As we continue on the road to recovery, this will mean that in time lockdown will no longer be necessary for the vast majority of the public and instead it will be possible for there to be a targeted lockdown for a small number of people.

“For this to be effective, everyone will need to stay alert and play their part to control the virus and save lives.

“By working with our tracers and complying with the rules, the public will avoid unknowingly spreading the virus to their family and loved ones and this new test and trace service will help to control coronavirus.”

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