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Test and Trace – guidance for workers

by Gemma Melling

What is Test and Trace?

Test and Trace means that anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by the NHS and asked to share information about their recent interactions with other people in the two days before symptoms started and up to 10 days afterwards. This is called contact tracing.

This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.

The aim is to identify people who could have been infected with Covid-19, alert them and prevent them from spreading the virus any further. This is particularly important as lockdown measures are beginning to be eased.

What happens then?

Those people identified as having been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test result must then stay at home for 14 days. They will be contacted by text, phone or email and asked to log-in to a secure online service. This service will then outline the steps that you need to take or a trained call handler will be able to talk you through what you need to do.

Even if people have no symptoms they must follow the advice to prevent them spreading the virus without knowing.

What are the symptoms I should look out for?

If you develop a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in your sense of smell or taste you should immediately report these symptoms, self-isolate at home and book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus. Your household should self isolate also

I’m display symptoms, what should I do?

 Book a test immediately. This can be done online at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

If I’m told to self-isolate, how long is this for?

 If the test is positive, you need to self isolate  for 10 days, from the first day that you developed symptoms. Only stop self isolating after day 11 if you have not had any symptoms for 48 hours. Other people in your household need to self isolate for 14 days.

If I test positive but I’m not displaying symptoms, can I work?

 No, if you have tested positive, you must self isolate for 10 days. Even if you aren’t displaying symptoms, you can still spread the infection to others. Others in your household must also self isolate for 14 days if anyone in the household tests positive.

 Do I need to tell my employer if I’ve been told to self isolate?

 Yes, you need to notify your employer at the earliest opportunity or the notification period for an absence set out in your absence management / sickness policy that you have been told to self-isolate.

Will my whole workforce be told to self-isolate if someone tests positive?

No, only those who have had close recent contact (being within 2m for more than 15 minutes) with someone who then tests positive for Covid19 will be asked to self-isolate.

If I am told to stay at home, will I be eligible for sick pay?

Where possible and if you’re able to do so, you must work from home.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that those having to self-isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay if they are unable to work from home.

If you cannot work from home while you are self-isolating, you may be entitled to Employment Support Allowance. More information, including the eligibility criteria, can be seen here https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

Agency workers or workers on zero hours contract who have been told to self-isolate must work from home, unless it is impossible for them to do so. If they are unable to work from home, they may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Universal Credit whilst self-isolating in line with Government guidance.

How can I prove that I’ve been told to self-isolate?

 Workers who are self-isolating because they have symptoms of coronavirus or live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, can get an isolation note through NHS111 online. Workers who are told to self-isolate should share the evidence provided by NHS Test and Trace to show that they have been told to self-isolate and explain to their employer that this means that they cannot come to work.

Workers who are already unable to work and have a ‘Fit Note’ which says they are not fit for work covering the period for which they have been told to self-isolate, must follow the public health advice they have been given.

Workers who think the contacts that have triggered these notifications are workplace contacts, should ask their employer to consider what further mitigating actions could be taken to reduce the risk of Covid19, such as using screens to separate people or staggering start / finish times. Further suggestions can be found in the safer workplace’s guidance.

If I am contacted by Test and Trace, how will I know what to do?

The Government has said that people who are contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service will be given clear information explaining what they must do and how they can access local support if needed.

Guidance is also available online at gov.uk/coronavirus.

 What support is available to me if I need to self-isolate?

 If you’re a Knowsley resident, contact the Support and Volunteer helpline on 0800 073 0043 for help. Help around food shopping, dog walking and prescription collection is available. If you don’t live in Knowsley, contact your local authority who will also be offering support.

Are there steps I can take to protect myself and others?

Yes – there are a number of steps you can take to help to stop the spread of infection:

  • Continue to stay at home as much as possible and limit your contact with others.
  • If you do need to go out (work, shopping or exercise), maintain social distancing.
  • Continue to regularly wash your hands with soap and water and use a hand gel sanitiser if possible.
  • Remember to catch it, bin it, kill it with coughs and sneezes – dispose of tissues in a bin with a lid.
  • If you can work from home, do so.
  • Wear a face covering where advised to do so. The full list of where you need to wear one can be found on the Government’s website.

 How is Covid19 data recorded and shared?

Information is shared on the Government’s website daily regarding the total number of confirmed cases, broken down at local authority level. This gives the total number of confirmed basis on a rolling basis since the pandemic began in March.

Public Health England (PHE) issue data to local authorities on a daily basis which relates to local testing and confirmed cases and it is this data that is often reported in the media. It is important to note that the data fluctuates from day to day and whilst Knowsley may be highlighted as a hotspot area one day, 24 hours later it could move to being one of the least affected areas.

It’s also important to note that we have done a big push on sharing the message to get tested if you are displaying symptoms. The uptake for testing is Knowsley is high, so the more people that are tested, the greater the likelihood that our numbers of confirmed cases could increase. Areas that have low numbers could be due to a low number of people being tested potentially resulting in people socialising and spreading the virus unknowingly.

The council is encouraging people to get tested and if confirmed positive, their close contacts (being within 2m with someone for more than 15 minutes) are contacted and instructed to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent them from spreading the virus.

Further information

 Further information on guidance and support for employees during coronavirus can be found here.