Coronavirus test and trace: your questions about new system answered

How will the coronavirus test and trace system work, will I be fined if I refuse a test and will it help to lift the coronavirus lockdown? Your questions about the new system answered

  • Delayed scheme was unveiled tonight by Health Secretary Matt Hancock 
  • He said it was the ‘civic duty’ of the public to adhere to new rules from tomorrow
  • Come into effect from 9am tomorrow for people who’ve already tested positive
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Locked-down Britain may finally start to return to ‘normality’ after nine weeks of uncertainty through the government’s coronavirus tracing system.

The NHS Trace and Test system for England is expected to start tomorrow at 9am. 

It was unveiled tonight by Health Secretary Matt Hancock , who said it was the ‘civic duty’ of the public to adhere to the new rules. 

However, it is being launched without its NHS contact tracing app centrepiece, prompting concerns that without the new technology the government could struggle to tackle the spread of the disease.

Experts immediately said the complexity of the programme meant there could be ‘several points of failure’ while the Government’s political opponents said ministers should never have largely ditched contact tracing in the first place.

So what do you need to know about the NHS Trace and Test system for England? And how will it affect you and your loved ones? 


The NHS Test and Trace system was unveiled by Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) and Baroness Harding (left) at the daily coronavirus press conference at No10 today

A government diagram tries to explain how the anticipated NHS Test and Trace system, which is expected to start tomorrow morning at 9am, will work

What is the NHS Trace and Test system? 

The NHS Trace and Test system will see anyone who develops Covid-associated symptoms told to self-isolate and get tested.

The close contacts of those who are found to be positive for the disease will then be told to quarantine for 14 days – even if they test negative and are not sick. 

Boris Johnson’s government has hired an enormous army of 50,000 people who will attempt to make this huge undertaking possible. 

Around 25,000 are contact tracers who will contact people who return positive coronavirus tests to grill them on their movements and their known associates. 

The idea is to build a picture of who they have come into contact with and so who might be at risk of a) becoming ill and b) passing it on to more people.    

Another 25,000 people in the scheme are testers, who will go out into the community and test these known associates.

Either way, these known associates will be under orders to immediately quarantine, even if the tests they return are negative.  

Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace, said the scheme was central to easing the lockdown further.

She said: ‘NHS test and trace is designed to enable the vast majority of us to be able to get on with our lives in a much more normal way. 

‘We will be trading national lockdown for individual isolation if we have symptoms.

‘Instead of 60 million people being in national lockdown, a much smaller number of us will be told we need to stay at home, either for seven days if we are ill or 14 days if we have been in close contact.’

The tracers can track down the contacts of 10,000 people per day. 

How exactly will the NHS Test and Trace System work? 

The UK’s coronavirus tracing programme will be split into two parts.

  • Part One: 

People will be ordered to self-isolate for seven days if they develop symptoms. Anyone in the same household will have to do the same. 

Those people should then order a coronavirus test online or by calling 119. This will be available for residents in Wales from Saturday.

If a test is positive, that victim must complete seven days in isolation. If the test comes back negative, no one needs to self-isolate.

However, people with a positive test for Covid-19 will then be contacted via text message or email or by phone and told to answer questions.

They will be asked to share phone numbers and email addresses for close contacts.

For those under 18, they will receive a call from the team and a parent or guardian must give permission for the call to continue. 

  • Part Two:

People who have been listed as a person with whom a coronavirus victim has had close contact will receive a text message or an email.

They will then be asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days based on when they last came into contact with that person.

Other household members do not need to self-isolate unless symptoms are present.

If they develop Covid-associated symptoms, all other household members should self-isolate and they should then order a test.

If the test is positive, self-isolation must continue for seven days. If the test is negative, that person should still complete 14 days in case the virus is not showing.

How long will it be before I know if I have the coronavirus?

The aim of the scheme is to get all test results processed and returned within 24 hours but it is unlikely to hit that goal right at the start of the rollout. 

That means some people could face lengthy waits to find out if they have tested positive, potentially delaying the tracing process and allowing the virus to spread. 

Baroness Harding said of the test timings so far: ‘Yesterday, the turnaround time of our tests – we returned 84 per cent of all tests in our drive-in centres within 24 hours.

‘And 95 per cent of all tests within 48 hours. I still don’t think that’s good enough. It’s got to get better and better.’ 

Who is a ‘close contact’?

A close contact is anyone who has been within two metres (6ft 6in) of the infected person for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.

The government hopes the requirements of the system will focus the minds of the public on the importance of maintaining social distancing.

When the coronavirus app is up and running, the victim’s mobile phone should automatically identify anyone they have come close to.

Until that happens, patients will identify likely contacts via an online process.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Scotland has announced its own system will start tomorrow.

Wales’ system is set to start in early June, while Northern Ireland has its own version of the NHS Test and Trace system up and running. 

A MailOnline chart explains how the new NHS Test and Trace system is expected to work

The NHS Test and Trace system will be launched as the coronavirus death toll rises to 37,257

Are there any pitfalls? If so, what are they?

Yes there are pitfalls. This scheme has been cobbled together as quickly as possible by ministers and officials working under extreme pressure.  

Experts immediately said the complexity of the programme meant there could be ‘several points of failure’ while the Government’s political opponents said ministers should never have largely ditched contact tracing in the first place. 

Without the app, contact-tracking will be based on the say so of people who have tested positive. That means people will need to remember exactly where they have been and who they have been close in the days leading up to their positive test. 

If people forget or remember inaccurately who they’ve seen, the virus could spread. 

Baroness Harding told the Downing Street briefing: ‘We have 25,000 contact tracers ready to start work tomorrow – that is easily enough to trace down the contacts today when the vast majority of us are in lockdown.’

She said data from the Isle of Wight suggests people have been within two metres of fewer than five others at the moment.

What happens if people refuse to isolate? Will they be fined? 

The government has said that it is relying on the British public to voluntarily self-isolate if they display symptoms of Covid-19.

But it has warned that it will impose penalties if people do not follow its orders. Spot checks could be made to households and fines could be issued.

It is not known how much people would be fined if caught flouting self-isolation. 

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care told MailOnline: ‘We are confident that the public will want to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus to keep themselves, their families and communities safe and to protect the NHS. This means complying with advice to self-isolate.

‘However, if we find that people are not complying with isolation instructions, we will not hesitate to introduce tougher measures, for example making visits to check they’re at home or issuing fines if they are found outside the house.’ 

At tonight’s press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is ‘confident’ that when told to self-isolate, people will, adding: ‘Now of course we could also mandate that, but in the first instance we’re not going to.

‘This will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing.

‘But, we can quickly make it mandatory if that is what it takes. Because, if we don’t collectively make this work, then the only way forward is to keep the lockdown.’

Could people end up having to self-isolate repeatedly? 

Yes. The government has discussed imposing ‘local lockdowns’ on whole towns if there are future regional flare-ups of coronavirus cases. 

Mr Hancock said last night that the ability to tighten restrictions in individual regions will be part of the NHS test, track and trace system.

This could lead to local schools, businesses or workplaces being closed in areas with high prevalence of infection, according to the government’s ‘exit strategy’.

However, part of the rationale for the Test and Trace system is to allow local, small-scale action to be taken where there appears to be an outbreak.

Will people who have had coronavirus be exempt from self-isolating if they come into contact with a new Covid-19 sufferer?

No. Even people who have had positive tests for coronavirus will have to stay at home for 14 days if they come into close contact with a new sufferer.

The government has said that the scientific advice remains that it is uncertain if people who have had the virus are immune to it. 

What checks are in place to stop it being open to abuse, or pretending to have the disease as a joke? 

The emphasis of the entire scheme is on testing people. So people claiming to have the disease will be tested. There will be very little wriggle room. 

Although if those who test positive fail or refuse to reveal who they have been in contact with, without the app there is very little the contact tracers can do to tell if people are telling the truth.

Who is in charge of the operation where I am? 

Councils and public health officials will be tasked with cracking down on local outbreaks of Covid-19, but it is not clear who will lead those efforts.

It is also not clear today how many staff members would be available to help or if local authorities will get extra funding and powers to act appropriately. 

Why not simply keep going the way we are?    

Though the government claims that lockdown has dramatically reduced Covid-associated deaths, the policy is destroying the economy.

Millions of workers have been furloughed by small businesses and big companies since tough restrictions on movement were introduced by the government.

Over half of the adult population of the UK is now being paid by the state in some capacity, whether in the public sector, on furlough, or benefits.

Business and companies have received hundreds of billions of pounds in emergency loans to date from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

But this state of affairs cannot continue forever.

Economists estimated in early April that lockdown, which began on March 23, is costing Britain around £2.4billion per day.

The Bank of England forecast that UK GDP contracted by 2 per cent in the first quarter, and is set to shrink by 30 per cent in the second quarter.

Bank staff believe the economy could ‘bounce’ by around 15 per cent by the end of the year, meaning the UK would be around 15 per cent poorer than before lockdown.

Faced with what the Bank called the biggest economic nosedive in 300 years, the government is trying to restart the engines of UK plc.

The PM has committed himself to bringing Britain out of lockdown safely by managing the risk to public health posed by coronavirus.

The NHS Test and Trace system is meant to help do just that. 

Mr Hancock told the press briefing: ‘Until an effective treatment or vaccine comes through how can we get back to doing more of the things that make life worth living without risking safety or putting lives at risk? NHS Test and Trace is a big part – not the only part – but a big part of the answer to that question.’ 

What is this app people are talking about? 

The NHS Trace and Test system is being launched without its NHS contact-tracing app centrepiece, prompting concerns that without the new technology the government could struggle to tackle the spread of Covid-19. 

Experts believe the app will be crucial to the success of the programme because it can identify contacts much quicker than human contact tracers. 

The smartphone app uses bluetooth to register other phones it has been near for a prolonged period of time. A date has not been set for the nationwide roll out of the app but without it contact tracing will not be as swift as it would be with it. 

Matt Hancock said it is ‘not technical problems’ which are preventing the test and trace app from being rolled out nationwide.

He said: ‘It is that one of the things we learnt about in the Isle of Wight is that rolling out the system where people are asked to isolate, even if they have no symptoms, starts better when it comes in human form from the contact tracers.’

Mr Hancock added that ‘the app is working in the Isle of Wight’, and said that when the government has ‘successfully embedded’ the new NHS Test and Trace system, ‘then that is the time to bring the app to bear’.

He continued: ‘Because the app is a compliment to this system, even without it this system would be successful, but it is a compliment because there are some contacts that you don’t know that you might have made.’

Have other countries used contact tracing?

South Korea has monitored credit card transactions, CCTV footage and mobile phone locations, while Singapore has used police investigations and detective work to piece together where people have been and who they’ve seen.

Iceland saw 40 per cent of the population download its app, though its government says manual tracing is just as important.

Austria introduced a decentralised app operated by the Red Cross, which users can manually control. It was the first to roll out this app. 

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The New Moon in Gemini Asks You to Dream Big—Then Make Your Move

The Gemini New Moon on May 22 gives us a chance to dream big—if we don’t let our anxieties hold us back, that is. New Moons bring new beginnings, but this luminary is a time of introspection and reflection. Mars, planet of action, in Pisces is giving is the determination to move towards our goals, but Saturn Retrograde is reminding us that we have to build a foundation first. Neptune in Pisces adds confusion, while Mercury and Venus Retrograde in Gemini push us to make impossible-seeming choices. Before we fly away, we must face our fears and feel our feels—but then, it’s time to conquer the world.

Here’s what that means for you:

Aries

Putting extra energy into boring projects may make the day go by faster, but it won’t satisfy your passionate nature. After all, you put your whole self into your work and personal projects. Brainstorm new ideas and embrace what you really want.

Taurus

You work hard, but now, it’s time to play hard. Treat yourself to a present or a self-care day at home. Your earth sign sensibilities need to be rewarded for all of the tasks you’ve done recently—so show yourself some love.

Gemini

It’s time for you to level up, Gemini! Use some of your quicksilver wit to boost your social status. Soon, you’ll find success in everything you’re working on, even if the process is frustrating. But don’t give up. Flex your muscles, bb!

Cancer

You’re letting go of all the BS that’s been orbiting you. Getting to the heart of the matter will be hard, but it’s necessary to move on. In its place, you’re focusing on your passions.

Leo

This is your opportunity to show the world how amazing you are, Leo. But first, you will need to connect with people who’ll be down to help you work for a good cause. With proper financial support, your humanitarian project will fly high.

Virgo

All of the hours you’ve been putting into your career are finally paying off. But now you’re super exhausted. Log off, smell the roses, take a nap. Recharge your batteries and you’ll be thriving again soon.

Libra

You’re setting your sights high, which—sorry!!!—will probs create disappointments down the road. Try to be practical—world domination sounds exciting, but you may want to start small.

Scorpio

We’re all afraid to surrender our power, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to be vulnerable. Allow the walls you’ve built up around you to fall down. Let people get close to you instead of keeping them at a distance. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

Sagittarius

Your optimistic attitude means you bet big when it comes to romance—but you may be in love with the idea of love. Take off your rose-colored glasses to see your boo clearly.

Capricorn

You’d like to give your colleagues a piece of your mind, but since you’re trying not to create drama, you may want to sit this round of arguments out. Let someone else handle the situation for now.

Aquarius

Setting boundaries is always hard, but stop and think twice before quadruple-texting your crush. Choose to embrace a calm, collected, and chill vibe like the Aquarius you are.

Pisces

This has been a rollercoaster of emotion for us all, but especially for you. This luminary serves as a wake-up call to embrace all of yourself, even your flaws. Don’t be so harsh on yourself, Pisces! Try to give yourself more TLC and a big hug.


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Facebook delete group where young men allegedly shared revenge porn

Facebook is attempting to delete the accounts of young men in charge of a Facebook group where revenge porn was allegedly shared and men talked about being violent to women.

The private Facebook group, called "Melb guy pals", had almost 7000 members and was shut down by Facebook on Friday for violating the social media giant's community standards.

Facebook deleted the initial group before members migrated to another group.Credit:

Members of the group – consisting of men aged mostly between 18-30 – engaged in negative conversations about women, who they referred to as "dishwashers", that often espoused violence.

Since being taken down, members of the group migrated to new Facebook groups with slight variations on the original name and a Snapchat group. One of the new Facebook pages has amassed almost 1000 members.

Facebook is attempting to identify the creators of the group and disable their personal accounts. "We absolutely do not allow content that attempts to exploit, degrade or shame anyone, especially young people," a spokeswoman for the company said.

One of the group's administrators, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he "respected females completely" and argued the group provided a community for young men that was positive for their mental health.

One poster argued for a modern-day Holocaust – with females as the victims – and another posted that he would "bash" any girl that other members requested he assault.

Several posts relate to sharing videos of group members having sex with their partner or ex-partner. One said he would post an explicit video for 20 seconds only before deleting it, while another said he would share a video if his post received 200 likes. Sharing explicit images without another person's consent carries a maximum two-year jail term in Victoria.

The group was established in response to a female-only group called Melb Gal Pals. "If they can have one so can we," reads the male page's 'about' section.

Many of the posts relate to a sense among the men that women have too much power in society and men are muzzled.

According to Australian Catholic University academic Joshua Roose, violent political masculinity and misogyny has emerged as a social phenomenon over the past decade among men who feel women's empowerment has left them victimised and discriminated against.

Anti-feminist sentiment underpinned much of the popularity of forums like 8chan, notorious for hosting far-right political communities.

Many of these communities use irony to express their views and claim their violent language should not be taken literally.

One of the first posts in the new group, called Melb guy pals 2.0, reads "don't do f—ing shit this time … this group isn't about revenge porn, it's so a bunch of lads can talk some shit to each other and have a laugh."

The group quickly reverted back to sharing anti-feminist memes and using violent imagery towards women. "F— these dishwasher cunts," reads one post.

Tarang Chawla, a domestic violence campaigner whose sister was stabbed to death by her husband 2015, said the group's discussion could not regarded as "locker room banter".

"Violence against women exists along a continuum and sexist attitudes that denigrate women enable more serious forms of sexual and physical violence to occur," the Our Watch ambassador said.

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