Home Coronavirus: Help and support Test and trace – what is it?

Test and trace – what is it?

by Gemma Melling

A national Test and Trace programme was launched on 28 May 2020, but do you know what it is, what it means for you and how it will help to stop the spread of Covid-19?

Cllr Sean Donnelly, Cabinet Member of Health and Social Care, said “Test and trace is constantly being referenced in news reports, but with so much information being shared, it’s hard to know what it all actually means! So, we’ve summarised the key questions you may have about the programme to help you to better understand what it is and what you will be expected to do if you do get a call from the NHS Test and Trace team.”

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. The NHS Test and Trace contract tracing website is https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk

You will be asked for:

  • Your name, date of birth and postcode
  • If you live with other people
  • Any places you’ve been recently, such as a workplace or school
  • Names and contact details of any people you were in close contact with in the 48 hours before the symptoms started (if you know these details)

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.

How test and trace helps fight the virus

The NHS test and trace service will help to control the rate of reproduction (R), reduce the spread of the infection and save lives. By playing your part through the actions set out below, you will directly help to contain the virus by reducing its spread. This means that, thanks to your efforts, we will be able to go as far as it is safe to go in easing lockdown measures.

You can help in the following ways:

  • if you develop symptoms, you must continue to follow the rules to self-isolate with other members of your household and order a test to find out if you have coronavirus
  • if you test positive for coronavirus, you must share information promptly about your recent contacts through the NHS test and trace service to help us alert other people who may need to self-isolate
  • if you have had close recent contact with someone who has coronavirus, you must self-isolate if the NHS test and trace service advises you to do so

How will I know it is the Test and Trace team contacting me?

Text messages will come fromNHStracing. Calls will come from 0300 0135000.

Children under 18 will be contacted by phone wherever possible and asked for their parent or guardian’s permission to continue with the call.

The NHS Test and Trace service will not:

  • ask for bank details or payments
  • ask for details of any other accounts, such as social media
  • ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone
  • ask you to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087

How will the Test and Trace service use your information?

  • All information you provide to the NHS test and Trace service is confidential.
  • No one who is contacted will be told your identity.
  • Anyone you’ve been in close contact with (within 2m for 15 minutes or more) will be told to stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days. This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear.

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 and book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

What happens if those people in isolation develop symptoms?

People in isolation who develop symptoms can book their own test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for 10 days from the first day when their symptoms first started.

If they test negative, they must still complete the 14-day isolation period.

What about other members of their households?

Other members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified as a contact becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 14 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

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

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

 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.

How will the Test and Trace service use your information?

All information you provide to the NHS test and Trace service is confidential.

No one who is contacted will be told your identity.

Anyone you’ve been in close contact with (within 2m for 15 minutes or more) will be told to stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days. This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear.

Why is social distancing important? What difference does it make?

Maintaining social distancing (keeping a distance of 2m or more) will help to stop the spread of the virus. It is important because if someone tests positive for Covid-19 and you have been in close contact with them (within 2m for 15 minutes or more), you will have to self-isolate for 14 days to stop you (unknowingly) spreading the virus. You can spread Covid-19 even if you aren’t displaying symptoms.

What local support is available?

Local support can include things like:

  • Food shopping
  • General help with loneliness – a friendly call
  • Prescription collection
  • Dog walking if you need to self-isolate
  • Help to get online, we can support you with your Wi-Fi Connection, Emails, Online Shopping and Skype and Zoom Calls to stay connected with friends and family

Find out more about local support available during Covid-19 or call the Freephone helpline on 0800 073 0043.

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

Yes – there are a number of steps you can take:

Continue to stay at home as much as possible and limit your contact with others

  • If you do need to go out, 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 – mainly in a range of indoor places such as shops, on public transport but more places have been added on to the list. The full list of where to wear one, as well as advice on how to make your own, can be found on the Government’s website. If you don’t wear a face covering where mandatory, you could get a fine (£100).

Further information

The latest Test and Trace updates can be found on the Government’s website.