COVID-19 track-and-trace army of 25,000 tracers to launch this week – once the app’s issues are resolved
Ministers are launching this week’s acclaimed new track-and-trace program with an army of 25,000 recruits competing to lead Britain out of the corona virus crisis.
The plan – to track down those who have been in close contact with Covid-19 victims and isolate them to stop the transmission chain – will act as “part of the largest virtual call center operation in the country.”
Using a model that has proven effective in other countries and has been tested with an app on the Isle of Wight, tracers will contact those who test positive for the virus.
The coronavirus track-and-trace program is being launched this week by ministers with 25,000 recruits helping to operate the system
The tracing app has been used successfully in other countries and has recently been tested by the UK on the Isle of Wight
They will then ask them for information about people they have had long-term contact with and who may have been exposed – likely members of the household or colleagues in the workplace.
A No 10 spokesperson said, “A test-and-trace system allows us to identify and isolate new infections so that we can control the spread of this virus, which is vital as long as the coronavirus remains in the UK.
“If we continue to recover, this will eventually mean that a lock will no longer be needed for the majority of the public and that a targeted shutdown will be possible for a small number of people instead.”
The announcement came when Baroness Dido Harding, who was appointed to lead the program, was found to have served on the board of the Jockey Club, giving the controversial green light for the Cheltenham Festival.
It was blamed for causing a spike in Covid-19 infections in the area after 60,000 race goers descended the track for the four-day event on March 10.
Baroness Dido Harding (pictured), who gave the green light to continue the Cheltenham Festival in March, leads the app planning process for contact tracking
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday also found the contact recruiting and training for the program to be chaotic, despite Boris Johnson’s promise to MPs that there would be a world-class system by June 1.
Insiders who volunteered for senior “clinical” contact finding roles told this newspaper how the program was plagued by teething problems.
In one case, an environmental health officer (EHO) – who himself designed an infectious disease contact tracking system – gave up recruiting after getting ‘lost’ in the NHS bureaucracy.
“It was like hitting your head against a brick wall,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) promised MEPs that there would be a “world-improving” tracking system by June 1, although contact tracker recruitment and training was “chaotic”
In another, a nurse said she was unable to take online training because the modules were not ready yet. “It was incredibly frustrating,” she added.
And basic technical issues, such as contact tracers that work from home and were unable to log into the computer system, continue to address dogs.
Ministers had been warned by their scientific advisors about the importance of manual tracers to monitor the coronavirus – and how their original plan, based on unqualified minimum wage call center staff, would not work.
It led to the number of clinical contact tracers needed – people like doctors, nurses and EHOs – increasing from 3,000 to 7,500 in what experts see as tacit acknowledgment that the original scheme was wrong.
Despite the improvements, however, many clinical contact tracers are disappointed with their experience with NHS Professionals recruiters.
The EHO, which recently retired, was approved, but said it was subsequently advised to contact NHS organizations themselves to offer its services.
The new test system will be needed as the coronavirus has so far passed through the UK with 36,675 fatalities from the virus
“I couldn’t find any who were recruiting contact tracers,” he said. The EHE subsequently sought advice from NHS Professionals. “I tried to call their number 12 to 15 times over four days, but no one answered.
“On one occasion I let it ring for 40 minutes,” he said, adding that he eventually gave up offering his services. “It all seemed like a mess. I would love to help you, but I am not desperate for work and in the end it is not worth the grief. ‘
The nurse said that after signing up last week, the online training modules “just weren’t there.” She added: “The point is to wait for the training when we need to do this urgently.
“Have you thought about it? It doesn’t feel like it, it seems like they are making it up while they’re at it. ‘
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs contested the EHO report on recruitment issues and added: ‘We are introducing this program at an unprecedented rate to address coronavirus outbreaks and, over time, help us safe lifting of some locking measures. “