THE R rate of transmission is “too high” to lift the lockdown now, Nicola Sturgeon has said as the UK rolls out the new track and trace system.
Scotland’s First Minister today insisted the infection rate is still too high to make “any meaningful change”.
It came as the Scottish leader unveiled the new test, trace, isolate strategy, which she said would speed up easing the lockdown.
She said: “Although we’re making real and significant progress, the numbers still being infected by the virus and the all-important R number remain too high right now to make any meaningful change without risking the virus running quickly out of control again.
“We also know as we see that care home transmission continues to be a very significant challenge.
“All things considered, decisions are yet to be formally taken, it is almost very likely that on Thursday I will be asking you to stick with lockdown for a bit longer.”
Discussing the new tracing programme, Ms Sturgeon insisted it was not a “quick fix or magic solution”.
She explained: “We will test people in the community who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. We will use contact tracing, a well-established public health intervention, to identify the close contacts of those cases, who may have had the disease transmitted to them.
“We will ask and support those close contacts to self-isolate, so that if they do develop the disease, there is less risk that they will pass it on to others.
“And we will make sure that support is available to enable people to isolate effectively.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to unveil the UK Governmen’ts own “test track and trace” programme later today.
Chasing down people that new sufferers have mixed with to halt contagion chains has proved hugely successful in countries like South Korea and Germany.
Mr Hancock last week announced the NHS is recruiting 18,000 contact tracers to do the same in Britain.
The Government has come under intense scrutiny over its testing and contact tracing policy after Public Health England (PHE) advised ministers in early March that contact tracing should be stopped.
PHE said in mid-March that “because the virus is more widespread and we will not necessarily be able to determine where someone has contracted the virus”, contact tracing was being stopped in favour of a more “targeted approach”.
The UK approach has contrasted with other countries such as Singapore and South Korea, which have successfully kept up contact tracing to contain their outbreaks.
It comes as the Prime Minister urged Brits to stick with it so the nation could pass the five tests needed to end the lockdown.
Speaking this morning, he said: “Thank you for all you’ve been doing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“But we will only be able to move onto the second phase of this conflict when our five tests have been met.”
These include the NHS having sufficient capacity, a fall in daily deaths, the infection rate falling, PPE being in supply and no risk of a second peak.
The PM added: “The worst thing we can do now is ease up too soon and allow a second peak of the coronavirus.”
Today it was revealed canteens could be closed and masks worn in offices under draft Government plans for the new workplace rules.
Brits are facing massive changes when they go back to work as employers are urged to minimise the risk of a second peak.
Restrictions being eased will see companies told to minimise the amount of staff using equipment, stagger shift times and maximise home-working.
The draft strategy also calls for physical screens and the use of protective equipment when staff cannot work two metres from each other.
Staff will also be told to avoid sharing pens and avoid face-to-face meetings.