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Everything you need to know about the government’s new test and trace system

PUBLISHED: 18:14 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:20 28 May 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19) Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19) Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

A new ‘important’ project to help track people who have been in contact with those who have tested positive for coronavirus is set to be launched.

The new system operational from May 28 will see a team of tracers get in touch with those at risk of contracting coronavirus in a bid to prevent a second wave of the virus.

Workers will be backed up by a new government app which is due to be launched on Monday, June 1 following a trial in the Isle on Man.

However, concerns have been raised over how data gathered by the app will be used and how those without access to smart devices, or who struggle to use technology, will get involved.

• How will the test and trace system work?

The new system will involve 25,000 of workers who will trace those who have been in contact with people who have tested positive for the virus.

Anyone concerned they have the virus will be encouraged to order a test online, which begins the process.

If a test comes back positive, the individual will be asked to provide details of people they have been in close contact with - being within two metres for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.

Those people who have been in close proximity will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

• Do I need to download the app and how will it work?

The track and trace system will be assisted by a new app which will automatically track who has been in close contact with those infected.

After a trial on the Isle of Wight, it is understood the app will be launched on Monday, June 1.

The app will use bluetooth technology to work out when other app users are close enough to risk passing on the virus.

The data is recorded under an anonymous ID. When someone begins to show symptoms and shares information on the app, it will send a notification warning of a possible infection to all those phone users who have been in close proximity with that person recently.

Those who have spent more than 15mins within 6ft of a person who has Covid-19 symptoms, or who has tested positive for the virus, will receive a specific notification.

Using the app is voluntary but the government says the app will be help “replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks”.

• What do people think of the system?

There are concerns over the usage of the system amongst those who do not have access to smart devised or those who may struggle to use them.

However, the government has backed that app and have said that the trial was successful.

When announcing the new system, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.”

However, others have raised concerns over the app.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It’s clear that the ability to track and trace people who have been in contact with the virus will be an important part of the future management of the pandemic, here in the UK as in other parts of the world.

“If this is to work well, it’s crucial to retain public confidence and that means the government needs to be completely transparent about what personal data will be collected and how it will be used.

“Older people in particular may want very clear information about data privacy and security before they take part.”


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