The Health Secretary has said the adoption of a “test, track and trace” approach could enable the “heavier” coronavirus social distancing measures to be eased.
Matt Hancock said the TTT plans could help to suppress the transmission of Covid-19 in a way that then allows less stringent rules.
Here’s a breakdown of what each element of the strategy will entail.
Crucially, people will first need to know if they have coronavirus. The Government has pledged to carry out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, and has widened the eligibility criteria to include all key workers.
The only tests currently available check whether a person has coronavirus by looking for antigens. They do not show whether a person has previously had the virus, as reliable antibody tests have yet to be found.
If someone tests positive, they will then need to isolate for at least seven days.
The Government wants to track Covid-19 in the population to try to understand the current rate of infection alongside how many people have developed antibodies to the virus.
Mr Hancock said 25,000 people will take part in the first phase of a large-scale testing study, with plans to expand it to up to 300,000 over the next 12 months.
For the study, initial findings from which are expected in early May, all participants will be tested to see if they currently have coronavirus, while adults in 1,000 of the households will provide blood samples to find out what proportion of the population has developed antibodies.
Once someone has tested positive, contact tracing will be essential to slow the spread.
An NHS app is currently being developed which could identify people who have been in proximity to a smartphone user who subsequently develops coronavirus symptoms and tell them to self-isolate.
In addition, 18,000 people are now being recruited to help with contact tracing. They will help notify those who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.