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Army of thousands to help trace coronavirus victims

An army of thousands of coronavirus contact tracers is to be trained within weeks to help Britain to exit lockdown.  Council staff and civil servants are among those who will be drafted in as part of a three-tier system to ensure that every infected person is isolated before they pass the virus on to others.

Public Health England aims to have a system running within three weeks so that it can be used if the government wants to ease restrictions.  As he declared yesterday that Britain had “reached the peak” of coronavirus cases, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, promised “very large scale” contact tracing would be in place to allow social distancing to be relaxed.

Britain abandoned mass contact tracing a month ago as testing capacity failed to keep up with the epidemic.  The aim would be to track more than 80 per cent of people with whom an infected person had been in contact within 24 hours of diagnosis. Infected people and those they had contact with would be quarantined until the risk that they could get the illness had passed.

The WHO said that countries wanting to exit lockdown must “find every case” and “trace and quarantine every contact”. Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, pressed Mr Hancock to commit the government to having a scheme in place within two weeks. Mr Hancock replied: “We are ramping up our testing capacity and our capacity for contact tracing in a matter of weeks, and we’ll have it ready to make sure that we can use that as and when the incidence of transmission comes down.”         (Source:  The Times 23/4)