COVID-19 track, trace system begins in England

LONDON (AFP) – England launched a “test and trace” system yesterday, the latest weapon deployed in a battle to halt the COVID-19’s spread in one of the worst affected countries in the world.

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was people’s “civic duty” to comply with the new rules which will seek to track down people at risk from the disease.

“It’s incredibly important for anybody who gets the symptom to immediately isolate at home and to get a test and not to leave the house,” he told BBC radio.

Under the system, a team of 25,000 tracers – supported by 20,000 testers and up to 7,000 clinicians – will text, email or call people who test positive for the virus and ask who they have been in close contact with.

Anybody thought to be at risk of infection will have to self-isolate, even if they have no symptoms.

For those who test positive, a clinician will immediately ask them whom they have been in “close contact” with – who will also be asked to self-isolate.

Close contact in this case means being within two metres of someone for 15 minutes, or within one metre face-to-face, Hancock said.

The government aims to be able, initially, to trace the contacts of 10,000 people a day.

The scheme relies on people to comply with the rules. No fines have been put in place for those who refuse.

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock. PHOTO: AFP