New announcement. Learn more


On the Right Track?

Today sees the introduction of the new track and trace system which aims to lift the blanket lock down restrictions and move towards more localised, targeted measures.

In keeping with the existing rules, anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus must continue to isolate for seven days and the rest of their household for 14 days.  But from now on, everyone with systems should ask for a test online or phone to arrange a test by calling 119.

If the test comes back negative, everyone in the household can go back to normal.  If the test is positive, tracers will get in touch by text, email or phone call to discuss who they have had contact with.  Any of those contacts deemed at risk of infection will be asked to isolate for 14 days even if they are not sick.  They will be tested only if they develop symptoms and the rest of their household does not have to isolate unless someone becomes ill.  If instructed to do so some people may have to isolate more than once.

The success of the scheme will depend on how quickly contacts can be found and whether members of the public follow instructions.  Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said that system would be voluntary "because we trust everyone to do the right thing.  But we can quickly make it mandatory if that's what it takes"  However critics believe public support will be much harder to achieve in the wake of the row over the Prime Minister's chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

 Additionally many workers will be forced to continue working due to financial constraints.  Those instructed to self isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay - £95 per week but many workers will not be able to live on that amount.  Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the government to introduce "enhanced"  sick pay, saying  "There will be people whose work conditions and employment conditions make [self-isolating] difficult for them so they need that security"  TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady also called on the government to extend sick pay to everyone and raise it to the "real living wage" - £260 per week.  She said the entire test and trace system would be "undermined" if workers were "pushed into hardship" when they were required to self-isolate.    

Only time will prove whether the new system shows any traces of being on the right track.