How does the coronavirus Test and Trace programme work?

The new NHS contact tracing system which aims to contain the spread of coronavirus is being rolled out across England on Thursday.

But how does it work and what do people need to do?

– What do I have to do if I am worried I have coronavirus?

If you begin showing coronavirus symptoms such as a fever, continuous cough or loss of smell or taste then you should self-isolate immediately for at least seven days and order a test.

Anyone else in your household should also self-isolate for 14 days from when you began showing symptoms.

You can order a test by calling 119 or going to NHS.UK/coronavirus.

How NHS Test and Trace works
(PA Graphics)

– How do I get tested?

Once you request a test you will be asked to either attend a test site or carry out a test at home.

The Government is aiming to provide results within 48 hours of taking a test, but warned some results may take longer.

– What happens if my test comes back negative?

If your test is negative you and your household can come out of self-isolation.

Coronavirus – Thu May 7, 2020
A person on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app (Steve Parsons/PA)

– What if the result shows I have coronavirus?

If your test comes back positive you and your household must complete your self-isolation periods.

Within 24 hours you will also be contacted via phone, text or email by the NHS Test and Trace programme and asked to provide details of people you have been in close contact with – defined as being within two metres for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.

You will be asked to do this online through a secure website or called by one of the NHS contact tracers.

– What happens if I am told I have come into contact with someone with coronavirus?

If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 you will be contacted either by text or email and asked to login confidentially to the NHS Test and Trace website.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

If you are unable to do this online, a trained call handler will ring you and talk you through what you need to do.

You will be told to isolate for 14 days from your last contact with the person with Covid-19, even if you do not have symptoms.

Other members of your household do not need to isolate if you do not have symptoms.

– What if I develop symptoms after being in contact with someone who has tested positive?

If you develop symptoms, your household should immediately begin to self-isolate for 14 days and you should order a test.

If it is positive, the test and trace process will begin again.

Coronavirus – Fri May 22, 2020
A Covid-19 antibody testing kit moves along the factory line (Ben Birchall/PA)

If you test negative you will still be asked to complete your 14-day isolation.

– Why do people who do not have symptoms have to isolate for 14 days while people who have tested positive only do seven?

The NHS says you should still isolate for 14 days after being in contact with someone who has tested positive because it can take that long for any symptoms to develop.

However, people who have tested positive should isolate for seven days or until their symptoms are gone, it adds.

– If I have to take time off work to isolate will I get any support?

Those self-isolating will be eligible for statutory sick pay, while those who are self-employed will be able to access cash grants.

You might also be able to get support from your local council such as having food or medical supplies delivered, the Government said.

– How will the system be enforced?

Initially the system will rely on you and everyone else acting responsibly and following the guidance if you are told to isolate.

But if the system of voluntary compliance does not work, ministers will be able to bring in tougher measures which could see people potentially subjected to spot checks and fined if they are not following the rules.

What if I’ve already tested positive for Covid-19 and recovered – will I need to isolate again if contacted?

You must still isolate as instructed because it is not yet known whether having the disease in the past means you are now immune, or whether you can still act as a carrier who can infect others.

– What has happened to the NHS contact tracing app?

A contact tracing app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight but it has been delayed by several weeks.

Leaders have not set a launch date.

– What are the other parts of the UK doing?

The Scottish Government’s Test and Protect programme also launched on Thursday, while Wales’s contact tracing plan is set to go live on Monday.

A pilot contract tracing programme began in Northern Ireland at the start of April and has been ramped up to a seven-day operation which will last for at least a year, health leaders there have said.

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