The decentralised Google-Apple system will benefit from work done on the abortive NHS app, said Dido Harding, head of the test-and-trace programme, and Matthew Gould, chief executive of the health service's technology unit NHSX.

The new coronavirus contact tracing scheme will launch tomorrow (May 28) across England, the government has announced.

It is hoped that the NHS Test and Trace service will help identify, contain and control coronavirus, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

The service, which benefits from 25,000 dedicated contact tracing staff working with Public Health England, will have the capacity to trace the contacts of 10,000 people who test positive for the virus each day. It can be scaled up if needed, the government has said in a communication.

Contact tracing staff will be backed by the new NHS app – now on course for a national rollout within weeks after passing early tests on the Isle of Wight.

While Northern Ireland has already launched its own version, Scotland has announced that its system will kick off on Thursday. Wales’ version will start in early June.

In England, for now, anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by the NHS team and will need to share information about their recent interaction, which could include members of the household as well as people with whom they have had direct contact or were within two metres for more than 15 minutes.

People identified as having been in contact with someone who has a positive test must self-isolate for 14 days, irrespective of symptoms, but will need to book a test if or when symptoms develop.If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for seven days or until the symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 14-day isolation period.

“As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we will be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said.

“This new system will help us keep this virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally.”

Responding to the government’s test and trace system announcement, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We have long called for a functional testing and tracing regime as key to the safe easing of the lockdown. The government’s decision to abandon contact tracing in mid-March was a huge error leaving a huge gap in our defences against the virus.

“We will need everyone asked to cooperate fully with NHS Test and Trace’s stay at home instructions to keep all of us safe.”

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