The government has launched the NHS Test and Trace service as part of the COVID-19 recovery strategy. This will mean anyone with symptoms will be tested and their close contacts will be traced. New guidance means those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 10 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.
If those in isolation develop symptoms, they can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for 10 days or until their symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 10-day isolation period.
Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 10 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
The NHS test and trace service will help to control the rate of reproduction (R), reduce the spread of the infection and save lives. By playing your part through the actions set out below, you will directly help to contain the virus by reducing its spread. This means that, thanks to your efforts, we will be able to go as far as it is safe to go in easing lockdown measures.
Easy read and large print information/materials can be found in the 'useful resources' section below.
You can help in the following ways:
- if you develop symptoms, you must continue to follow the rules to self-isolate with other members of your household and order a test to find out if you have coronavirus
- if you test positive for COVID-19, you must share information promptly about your recent contacts through the NHS test and trace service to help us alert other people who may need to self-isolate
- if you have had close recent contact with someone who has COVID-19, you must self-isolate if the NHS test and trace service advises you to do so
This specific guidance applies in England only.
If the NHS test and trace service contacts you, the service will use text messages, email or phone.
Contact tracers will:
- call you from 0300 013 5000
- send you text messages from ‘NHS’
- ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website
- ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
- ask about the COVID-19 symptoms you have been experiencing
- ask you to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the 2 days prior to your symptoms starting
- ask if anyone you have been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England
Contact tracers will never:
- ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to us (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
- ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
- ask for any details about your bank account
- ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
- ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
- disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
- provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
- ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
- ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS
They will ask you:
- if you have family members or other household members living with you. In line with the medical advice they must remain in self-isolation for the rest of the 14-day period from when your symptoms began
- if you have had any close contact with anyone other than members of your household. We are interested in in the 48 hours before you developed symptoms and the time since you developed symptoms. Close contact means:
- having face-to-face contact with someone (less than 1 metre away)
- spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of someone
- travelling in a car or other small vehicle with someone (even on a short journey) or close to them on a plane
- if you work in – or have recently visited – a setting with other people (for example, a GP surgery, a school or a workplace)
They will ask you to provide, where possible, the names and contact details (for example, email address, telephone number) for the people you have had close contact with. As with your own details these will be held in strict confidence and will be kept and used only in line with data protection laws.
How NHS Test and Trace works for someone with COVID-19 symptoms
- isolate: As soon as you experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should self-isolate for at least 10 days. Anyone else in your household should self-isolate for 10 days from when you started having symptoms.
- test: You should order a coronavirus test immediately at uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access.
- results: If your test is positive you must complete the remainder of your 10-day self-isolation. Anyone in your household should also complete self-isolation for 10 days from when you started having symptoms. Failure to self-isolate for the full time-period can result in a fine, starting from £1,000. If your test is negative, you and other household members no longer need to isolate.
- share contacts: If you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS Test and Trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you within 24 hours with instructions of how to share details of people you have been in close, recent contact with and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be asked to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our NHS contact tracers.
How NHS Test and Trace works for those contacted if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
- alert: You will be alerted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The alert will come either by text or email and you’ll need to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website, which is the easiest way for you and the service to communicate with each other – but, if not, a trained call handler will talk you through what you need to do. Under 18’s will get a phone call and a parent or guardian will be asked to give permission for the call to continue.
- isolate: You will be asked to begin self-isolation for up to 10 days, depending on when you last came into contact with the person who has tested positive. It’s really important to do this even if you don’t feel unwell, because it can take up to 10 days for the symptoms to develop. This will be crucial to avoid you unknowingly spreading the virus to others. Failure to self-isolate for the full time-period can result in a fine, starting from £1,000. Your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and washing your hands.
- test if needed: If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, other members of your household should self-isolate at home and you should book a COVID-19 test at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ or call 119 if you have no internet access. If your test is positive you must continue to stay at home for 10 days. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 10 day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works.
The NHS COVID-19 app
The new NHS COVID-19 app, now available to download for free in England and Wales, is the fastest way to see if you’re at risk from COVID-19. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community.
The app has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in. It uses proven technology from Apple and Google, designed to protect every user’s privacy.