NHS Test and Trace has been introduced across England as the latest tool in the fight against Coronavirus.
The service, will help identify, contain and control coronavirus, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.
From today, anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service to talk them through their next steps. They will also need to share information with the team about their recent interactions.
This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within two metres for more than 15 minutes.
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.
Much has been made of the mobile phone app which should be introduced in the coming weeks.
But Dr David Nicholl, who has treated Covid-19 patients on the frontline in Birmingham, said the app was just one small part of a several-pronged attack on the virus.
He said it may prevent a small amount of infections – scientists estimate the figure will be between five and 15 per cent of cases – but could not solve the whole problem because it relied on users both having a smart phone and voluntarily downloading the app.
Dr Nicholl has previously said testing was key to beating the pandemic and feels the more basic, less high-tech contact tracing is also key.
Contact tracing effectively sees the footsteps of those who have tested positive retraced to track down all the people they have been close to and then they are swabbed to see if they have the virus. Again those testing positive retrace their steps to see who they have been in contact with.
The app itself is clever – it recognises who users have been in contact with at a distance of less than two metres for longer than 15 minutes.
It also identifies direct contact, such as sexual partners, household members and face-to-face conversations.
Dr Nicholl said ironically the basic contact tracing had been used more in the UK at the start of the outbreak and countries, such as South Korea, which had been successful in defeating the virus, had relied more on that than the app.
CONCERNS about the app have also been raised by Bromsgrove campaigner Phil Haynes who said he feared it could infringe on people’s human rights.
He called for assurances from the Government about the system and what information it was gathering.
“I am concerned about this phrase ‘the new normal’ – not from a health point of view but with regard to tracking and tracing people and our freedom and liberties long-term.
“I have had others in Bromsgrove contact me about their civil liberties being intruded on.”
He questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s calls for people to immediately self-isolate for 14 days if the app showed they had been in contact with an infected person, asking why people should be told to stay at home for a fortnight when they had not even been tested.
Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid said the NHS Covid-19 App was one part of the Test and Trace programme, utilising technology to alert people who may have been exposed to the infection so they could take action to protect themselves, others and the NHS.
“The app has been designed with privacy in mind – it does not collect personally identifiable data from users, who will remain anonymous.
“Existing legislation (including the Data Protection Act 2018), the Ethics Advisory Board and the National Cyber Security Centre ensure there is a high level of security and privacy.
“Participation is voluntary and the app can be deleted at any time.”
‘Very positive step forward’ – Worcestershire Director of Public Health
THE DIRECTOR of Public Health in Worcestershire, Kathryn Cobain called the introduction a ‘very positive step forward’.
“She added the service would help build on the great work which has already been done by everyone since the pandemic began in terms of helping to stop the spread of the virus.
“It is really important that we continue to control coronavirus, whilst restrictions are gradually being lifted, and national lockdown is being eased. This service is a huge part of how we continue the significant progress that has been made so far.”
The County Council will be helping the NHS to run the service across Worcestershire, using local knowledge and expertise, working with districts, schools, communities and Workplaces to rapidly respond to emerging outbreaks.
Dr Cobain added the council’s Here 2 Help scheme continued to assist those who needed it in Worcestershire and had shown what can be achieved when everyone came together.
“It has showcased our commitment to do all we can to help during the pandemic and control the virus, and running the test and trace service is the next step forward.”
‘Test and Trace will help ease the lockdown’ – National co-ordinator
THE MAN co-ordinating the NHS Test and Trace nationally is Professor John Newton.
He said: “At this critical point in the nation’s response to coronavirus we are launching a service that will enable us to emerge more safely from lockdown.
“To control the virus we still need to continue with social distancing and good hygiene, but we also now have a comprehensive test and trace service to stop new cases spreading.
“This approach will allow us to gradually return to more normal personal, social and economic lives while recognising that we have to stay alert and respond rapidly to any advice from the new service.”
Those in isolation who develop symptoms can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling the designated phone number 119.
If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for seven days or until their symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 14-day isolation period.
Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 14 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
Visit worcestershire.gov.uk/coronavirus for more information.
If you have been asked to self-isolate by the team, and would like some support, please visit: www.worcestershire.gov.uk/here2help