Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke
A coronavirus test and trace system will be launched across England on Thursday, the government has announced.
The service will help identify people who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
How will it work?
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by one of the 25,000-strong newly-hired NHS Test and Trace team. Those with coronavirus will need to share information about their recent interactions with other people.
This includes people from their household, other people who they may have been in direct contact with, or within two metres of, for more than 15 minutes.
Those who have been identified as being in close contact with someone with Covid-19 must then stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms.
If they do start to develop symptoms, they can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for seven days or until symptoms pass. Those who test negative must stay in isolation for 14 days.
Tom explains the significance of test and trace
The development has been touted as one of the Government’s key strategies to help limit the spread of coronavirus as measures to ease the lockdown are introduced.
At least 25,000 dedicated contact tracing staff have been hired as part of the drive to detect and trace those who may have been exposed to the virus.
Working alongside Public Health England, officials say they have the capacity to identify 10,000 people who test positive for Covid-19 every day, which could be boosted if necessary.
The introduction of the app could also usher in the possibility of more localised lockdowns as opposed to wider ones currently imposed by the UK government and other nations in the UK.
How will the new test and trace system work?
‘Vital to stopping the spread of the virus’
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."
New coronavirus tracing app to be launched in ‘coming weeks’
Work is still continuing on the new NHS Covid-19 app before it can be launched across the rest of the UK.
Following its rollout on the Isle of Wight, more than 52,000 people on the island downloaded the app in the first week.
The app will form part of the NHS Test and Trace service and “is due to be launched in the coming weeks once contact tracing is up and running”.
In a press release, the Department for Health said: “It will significantly extend the speed and reach of contact tracing, by helping to identify those who you may not know, such as someone sitting next to you on public transport. The app will also give powerful insights into the spread of the virus and how to contain it.
“The new service applies to England only, but we continue to work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure we have systems that are coordinated across the UK.”
Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: “NHS Test and Trace will not succeed on its own – we all need to play our part.
“This is why we are working hand-in-hand with communities and local authorities across the country to tailor support at a local level, and respond quickly to local needs.
“And we will be constantly developing and improving as we go. Together we can help contain the virus, stop it spreading further and ultimately save lives.”
Coronavirus: Everything you need to know