Whole towns could be forced into lockdown amid local flare-ups of coronavirus, government says

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·News Reporter
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Local lockdowns will be a part of the new test and trace system set up to prevent coronavirus swelling again, the health secretary has confirmed.

Matt Hancock said that as the virus flares up in an area, authorities will be able to put that place into lockdown without the rest of the country being put under restrictions.

The test and trace system, anticipated to be started next month, will be used to try and safely ease the lockdown by allowing people to be tested and their contacts traced if they are found to be infected.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Downing Street briefing, Hancock told reporters: “Yes, we will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups and we have a system we are putting in place with a combination of Public Health England and the new joint bio-security centre, along with the local directors of public health who play an absolutely crucial role in the decision-making in the system to make sure if there is a local flare-up there is a local lockdown.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).

“And so local lockdowns will be part of the future system that we put in place as part of the NHS test-and-trace system.”

Test and trace systems have been used to great effect in South Korea, which has proved adept at handling the pandemic.

Mass tracing in the UK was dropped in March as infections rose, but now the government says it has recruited 25,000 people to work in the new system.

They will ask people who test positive for COVID-19 to provide information about their recent, prolonged close contacts who could have been exposed.

This is most likely to be the infected person’s household or colleagues, the government has said.

Those people will then be given advice by the contract tracers about keeping safe and preventing the virus from spreading further.

The tracers will run a national virtual call centre, and more details on what people will need to do as part of the tracing system is to be provided this week, according to the government.

A contract tracing app is also being trialled in the Isle of Wight, but has been affected by delays.

Hancock has previously said it would previously be rolled out by the middle of May. That date has now been pushed back several weeks.

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