Inside the South West's coronavirus test and trace centre

The test and trace centre in Bristol.

A new system to find people who come into contact with those infected with coronavirus has launched in England.

The Government says the new test and trace system will “change people’s lives” as lockdown restrictions are eased.

More than 25,000 people have been hired as ‘contract tracers’, who will call people suspected of being in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.

A number of those employees will be based in Bristol, monitoring cases across the South West.

Staff at the South West test and trace centre.

Mike Wade, who is Deputy Director of Health Protection for PHE South West, said he was confident the new system will work - provided people engage with it.

It's a huge programme and I think if the public really get behind this, as we expect they will, then I think it's going to be hugely impactive if people self-isolate at the earliest opportunity and contacts do what they're asked to do.

Mike Wade, PHE South West

How does test and trace work?

As per the current guidance, anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus - a persistent cough, fever or a sudden loss of taste or sense of smell - will have to isolate for seven days and the rest of their household for 14 days.

The difference is that from today (28 May), everyone with symptoms should ask for a test online or call to arrange a test by calling 119.

Contact tracers will monitor cases in the region.

If the test comes back negative, everyone in your household can go back to normal.

But if the test comes back positive, the NHS Test and Trace team will get in touch - via text, email or phone call - to discuss whom you have come into close contact with.

Any of those contacts deemed at risk of catching the virus will be instructed by the NHS to go into isolation for 14 days, whether they are sick or not.

They will be tested only if they develop symptoms. The rest of their household does not have to isolate, unless someone becomes ill.

‘It’s a benefit for everybody’

Mr Wade said the new system, which will be supported by a new app in the coming weeks, will “benefit everybody”.

He said it was too soon to indicate how long the new system will be in place for, but said it was already having a successful impact in areas of the region that have seen a spike in cases - like Weston.

I think the bottom line is we’re all affected by Covid-19 - we’ve all got relatives who are isolating at home who may be vulnerable and shielding.

Mr Wade

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know