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The government moves on to a ‘test, track and trace’ strategy to contain the virus

23 April 2020

By Simon Gentry

Health Secretary Matt Hancock lead today’s press conference by saying that the social distancing rules are working.  He added that lifting the restrictions too soon would risk a second peak.  The main focus of the conference was on testing capacity.  He said that testing capacity is currently at 51,000 a day, still short of the 100,000 a day target but he expressed optimism that it would be achieved.  He announced that from today employers of essential workers and their families will be able to go on the government's website to get a coronavirus test for any of their staff who want one.  He then announced that 18,000 people will be hired to help trace coronavirus infections along the lines of the approach taken in many East Asian countries.

He said that the Office for National Statistics and the University of Oxford were about to begin the "biggest antibody studies ever seen".  25,000 people will take part in the first phase and there are plans to expand it further over the next 12 months.  The public will be written to and invited to participate in the study.  He urged people to take part in what he described at vital research.

He revealed that the NHS is trialling a new contact tracing app which he said was part of a process of putting in place the infrastructure so the Health Service can roll out contact tracing on a large scale.  If people become unwell, they will be able to tell the NHS with this app and it will send an alert to other users enabling them to take appropriate action.  “Test, track and trace is vital to stop the virus”, he said.