Research and Technology

28.05.20

Government launches NHS Test and Trace service

In the latest efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, Government have launched the new NHS Test and Trace service across England, aimed at helping to identify, contain and control the virus.

As part of the newly-introduced service, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. These could include household members, people they’ve been in direct contact with or within 2 metres of for more than 15 minutes.

People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they are asymptomatic, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.

READ MORE: Test and trace service to be given £300m additional funding

READ MORE: Welsh NHS Confederation: Testing only part of the response

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.”

The NHS Test and Trace service, which includes 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 necessary.

It will bring together four tools to control the virus:

  • Test: Increasing availability and speed of testing will underpin NHS Test and Trace.
  • Trace: When someone tests positive for coronavirus the NHS Test and Trace service will use dedicated contact tracing staff, online services and local public health experts to identify any close recent contacts they’ve had and alert those most at risk of having the virus who need to self-isolate. This will be complemented in the coming weeks by the rollout of the NHS Covid-19 App.
  • Contain: A national Joint Biosecurity Centre will work with local authorities and public health teams in Public Health England (PHE), including local Directors of Public Health, to identify localised outbreaks and support effective local responses, including plans to quickly deploy facilities to particular locations. Local authorities have been supported by £300m of new funding to help local authorities develop their own local outbreak control plans.
  • Enable: Government to learn more about the virus, including as the science develops, to explore how we could go further in easing infection control measures.

A rapid expansion of testing capabilities across the UK has allowed the rollout of the NHS Test and Trace service, with a network of diagnostic labs across the country expected to soon have the capacity to carry out 200,000 tests a day.

Dido Harding, Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace, added: “This is a brand new service which has been launched at incredible speed and scale.

“NHS Test and Trace already employs over 40,000 people, both directly and through trusted partners, who are working hard to deliver both testing and contact tracing at scale. This is no small achievement and I am hugely grateful to everyone involved.

“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.”

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