The UK government has today launched its NHS Test and Trace service in a bid to identify, contain and control coronavirus to reduce its spread and save lives.

From now, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions, including people they have been in direct contact with.

People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.  But members of their own household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they would also self-isolate for 14 days.

"As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we will be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.

"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.”

NHS Test and Trace brings together four tools to control the virus:

  • Test: increasing availability and speed of testing
  • Trace: when someone tests positive for coronavirus the NHS Test and Trace service will use dedicated contact tracing staff, online services and local public health experts to identify any close recent contacts they’ve had and alert those most at risk. This will be complemented by the rollout of the NHS Covid-19 App in the coming weeks.
  • Contain: A national Joint Biosecurity Centre will work with local authorities and public health teams in PHE to identify localised outbreaks and support effective local responses
  • Enable: Government to learn more about the virus, including as the science develops, to explore how we could go further in easing infection control measures.

“NHS Test and Trace will not succeed on its own – we all need to play our part. This is why we are working hand-in-hand with communities and local authorities across the country to tailor support at a local level, and respond quickly to local needs. And we will be constantly developing and improving as we go. Together we can help contain the virus, stop it spreading further and ultimately save lives,” said Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace.

“We welcome the clarity that has now been given on the test, track and trace strategy. We should not be in any doubt how crucial getting this right will be, and we are extremely glad to see the involvement of local leaders and experts,” commented Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation.