On 28 May the NHS Test And Trace service was introduced across England. This forms a central part of the Government’s covid-19 recovery strategy to help as many people as possible return to life as close to normal as possible, in a way that is safe and protects our NHS and social care.
The objective of the NHS Test And Trace service is to push down and keep low the rate of reproduction (R) of covid-19 and reduce the total number of infected people by catching cases before they spread the virus. It brings together testing, contact tracing and outbreak management into an end-to-end service.
The roll-out of the NHS Test And Trace service has been made possible by the rapid expansion of testing. The largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history has been created and now has the capacity to carry out 200,000 tests a day. This includes 50 drive-through sites, more than 100 mobile testing units and three mega laboratories. Everyone in England is now eligible for a test if they have covid-19 symptoms. These symptoms are: a new, continuous cough; or a high temperature; or a loss of, or change in, normal sense of smell or taste.
The NHS Test And Trace service uses a combination of 25,000 dedicated contact tracing staff, local public health experts and an online service to trace the contacts of anyone who tests positive for covid-19. The NHS covid-19 app, which will further extend the speed and reach of contact tracing, will be rolled out nationally in the coming weeks as part of the NHS Test And Trace service.
On 22 May we announced £300 million of new funding for local authorities in England to work with NHS Test And Trace to develop local outbreak control plans. These plans will focus on identifying and containing potential outbreaks in places such as workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools, ensuring testing capacity is deployed effectively and helping vulnerable people who are self-isolating access essential services in their area.
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus is contacted by NHS Test and Trace and asked to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members and people with whom they have been in direct contact or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes. People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.
Those who need to self-isolate will be informed about local support networks if they need practical, social or emotional support. They will also have access to the same financial support available to those who have to self-isolate because they or another member of their household have symptoms or have tested positive for covid-19. This includes access to statutory sick pay, subject to normal eligibility conditions.
The public will have a key role to play in making this service a success. They will need to report covid-19 symptoms, book tests, help to identify recent close contacts, and self-isolate for at least seven days if they have covid-19, and for 14 days after they were in contact with the person who tested positive for covid-19 if they are identified as a close contact by NHS Test and Trace.
We have put in place a comprehensive media campaign to increase public awareness of the NHS Test and Trace service, what it is, why it is important and what the public need to do. This includes TV, radio, video on demand, posters, digital display and social media.
We are working closely with the devolved Administrations and public health agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure an aligned approach to testing and tracing across the United Kingdom where possible.