Coronavirus: Could contact tracing help end the UK lockdown? – BBC Newsnight

published on July 20, 2020

how many people do you meet every day how many people do you have contact with fewer than before certainly but still perhaps more than you'd think do you remember all of them would you be able to remember all of yesterday's or

Last Thursday's all you'll be able to tell someone else would you be willing to do so coronavirus has had themes and the next one will be contact tracing the idea is very very simple anyone who has been

Infected is contacted and asked who they've had contact with they in turn are contacted and put into isolation because so many people who have this illness are asymptomatic most experts now agree that if we to have any hope of

Living with it any hope of easing the lockdown that this process will be crucial the countries which have most successfully kept death rates low like South Korea have gone to town on contact tracing and isolating patients last week

The government announced an expansion of our own program we need to be really kick-starting contact tracing as the new number of cases begins to fall we're preparing for this now by hiring an initial 18,000 people scientists call

This the hope is that 18,000 new contact tracers can help push the our rate the reproduction rate of the disease down yet further but Public Health England's current capacity of traces is 290 it'll be a big challenge to scale up quickly

With three principal challenges the first is numbers of contact tracers the town of Voe in Italy kept its outbreak better controlled in neighboring towns and cities through extensive use of contact tracing and

Quarantine the man who helped set it up says the 18,000 isn't nearly enough at this point of the epidemics them they're not enough probably they will play a major role when transmission is slowing down by the set of the lockdown and then

Maybe at that point I don't know what kind of model of their use building the infrastructure is itself a Herculean task more challenging former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said then even the Nightingale hospital

Program some of England's contact tracing capacity has been hollowed out in recent years one area which still does have significant tracing expertise is sexual health services we've been told that sexual health clinics have

Been contacted by public health England to assist creating and Manning the new system not anyone can do it you need proper training and probably a medical background and is another potentially more human problem – this is a huge

Endeavor and there are thousands and thousands of people who will need to be contracted I think it still has to have that personal touch people that we contact they need to feel that we are hearing their situation they need to

Feel reassured that if they tell us the truth they're not going to get into trouble that if they tell us okay so I wasn't socially isolating I had been anti happy to party I did go means that my family I shouldn't have done I did

Have sex with somebody they need to feel that if we hear that we can listen to it and we can help them do something about it you need to be able to get people to do that so that you can get the contact tracing done the government hopes then

App which we all carry can do the heavy lifting but the tech is uncertain and where it's been tried like Singapore take-up rates low where contact tracing might be really effective is helping manage localized outbreaks an untold

Story of our crisis so far is how different is outbreak is in different places in the UK news night has seen local authority data which shows the extent of the virus in different places Sheffield for example is especially

Severe but if local areas aren't freed to exercise control over this process we might find that contact tracing suffers as did testing from too much power being hoarded at the centre one of the problems is the government has chosen to

Treat this as a national epidemic using a top-down centralized approach because what you've got is a hundreds if not thousands of small outbreaks that are going on at local level and the only way you can get on top of those outbreaks is

By careful monitoring and surveillance on the ground and involving your local unity and understanding your local community and in some areas we're going to need many more contact chasers and some areas we will need far fewer so it

Will really be done to the local areas to decide how much they need what they need in relation to the number of cases that they have the government may yet hit its testing target or come close that's no mean achievement but testing

Is only a means to an end and contact tracing is one of those ends until a vaccine comes if it doesn't it might be the only card we have to play

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