: Waiting for next track...

: Waiting for next track...

Coronavirus: UK track and trace delayed as ministers don't know how they'll get people to isolate

Coronavirus: UK track and trace delayed as ministers don't know how they'll get people to isolate

Published at 2:19pm 21st May 2020. (Updated at 3:39pm 21st May 2020)

Ministers are discussing whether to enforce isolation as part of the test, track and trace scheme amid concerns it will be difficult to get people to stay at home when lockdown measures are eased.

Senior sources inside government have told Sky News there is an ongoing conversation about how to ensure people stick to the new measures.

Ministers want to find a way to persuade rather than force the public to stay at home because of fears that heavy-handed measures would go down badly.

A key part of the new tracing process is ensuring those who may have the virus stay away from others in a bid to curb the spread. Without this aspect, the system will not work effectively.

One expert said asking people to isolate themselves would be "very difficult indeed" as soon as others start to go about their daily lives again.

They added that the app will have to win the trust of the public so they listen and obey when told not to go out.

In South Korea, held up as an example of good tracking and tracing, isolation is legally enforced and case officers check in with those in quarantine to ensure they have not left their home.

Such measures are viewed as unworkable by politicians in the UK.

Minsters wanted to announce plans for the nationwide scheme this week, but it has been delayed over concerns that any further confusion could undermine trust, after weeks of different messages coming from Number 10.

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Senior figures within government believe the public are most forgiving when the advice coming from ministers is designed to save lives.

But they fear that when it comes to longer-term strategy, people will be less understanding if things look confused.

They believe they have one chance to persuade people that the new system for tracking and isolating cases is effective, in order to get the nation back up and running.

Early results from the test-run on the Isle of Wight show that while the app works, people's behaviour towards using it has not been as expected.

A government source said there was a desire to interact with a person - a human contact tracer - rather than rely solely on an app.

Therefore, they said, it would have been better to roll out the call-centre model and then supplement it with an app, rather than the other way around.

Over the last 24 hours, ministers have publicly confirmed the app will be a supplementary element of the wider tracing system and not the main focus as originally suggested.

Around 25,000 contact tracers have been recruited so far, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

It is understood that by early June, a contact centre will be set up where people who believe they have the virus can call up, get a test and hand over their recent contacts in order for them to be traced and warned of possible infection.

Only close contacts will need to be traced as scientific evidence suggests they are at the greatest risk of exposure.

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