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Coronavirus: Contact tracing is key to lift lockdown, says health director

Coronavirus: Contact tracing is key to lift lockdown, says health director

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Jacob Webster at 6:26am 2nd June 2020.

Contact tracing: "not enough on its own to contain the disease"

  • North Yorkshire's Director of Public Health claims contact tracing is key in keeping coronavirus under control as lockdown is relaxed,
  • Dr Lincoln Sargeant claims it's not enough on its own to contain the disease.
  • He claims we still need social distancing and the regular washing of hands.

North Yorkshire’s contact tracing operation is key to keeping the coronavirus under control as the lockdown is relaxed, the region’s director of public health has said.

But Dr Lincoln Sargeant also warned that the tracing programme – which aims to alert people who have come into contact with an infected person – will not be enough on its own to contain the disease.

He said without social distancing rules and the regular washing of hands, the system is “unlikely to be as effective as it needs to be.”

Face wash soap in hands under tap

What is contact tracing?

It is a crucial component of the “test, trace and isolate” strategy which is helping countries lift their lockdown restrictions.

Someone who has been identified as being infected is asked to list all the people they have recently been in contact with.

What if I am contacted by the tracers?

Anyone deemed at risk of infection will be told to stay at home for 14 days.

They will be asked to self-isolate – even if you do not have symptoms – to stop them from unknowingly spreading the virus.

The government says its tracers can track down the contacts of 10,000 people every day.

It is hoped the system – already used in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Germany – will slow the spread of coronavirus.

Do I have to follow the instructions?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was confident the “vast majority of people” would follow the voluntary test and trace instructions.

Since then, the Department for Health has said that if people don’t comply tougher measures including home visits and fines will be introduced. 

In North Yorkshire, the staffing level of the scheme is being scaled up to include council workers, nurses and environmental health officers.

This is after the government announced a £300million package to help councils action their plans to reduce the spread of the virus.

North Yorkshire County Council is currently waiting to hear how much it has been allocated.

Dr Sargeant said:

“The primary objectives of the test and trace service will be to control the covid-19 rate of reproduction (R), reduce the spread of infection and save lives, and in doing so help to return life to as normal as possible, for as many people as possible, in a way that is safe, protects our health and care systems and releases our economy.

“It is crucial to realise that a test and trace system, no matter how well implemented, is not enough on its own to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

“Without vigilance in maintaining social distancing rules and the regular washing of hands, the test and trace system is unlikely to be as effective as it needs to be: 2 metres means 2 metres!”