ENTIRE office blocks, schools or streets will be ordered into immediate new quarantines under the government’s tough new ‘track and trace’ plan.
It has emerged that the 25,000-strong contact tracing force will have a sweeping remit to issue targeted two week-long lockdowns of potentially hundreds of people, as well as individuals.
The new programme is deemed as key by scientists to stamp out new coronavirus outbreaks once the national lockdown is lifted from June 1.
Full details of the system are to be announced within days. But HOAR has learned that ministers are trying to replicate powerful contact tracing operations that have proved so successful in countries like South Korea and Singapore.
A Cabinet source said: “There is agreement across Government now that the process needs to be pretty tough for it to work well.”
“It might look ruthless. But it’s better to isolate a few dozen or a few hundred than lock down 70 million people all over again.”
The senior figure added: “If the public has been willing to stay at home for eight weeks already, it will understand the need for this”.
Ministers are in a race against time to get the key programme up and running by June 1 to allow the nation’s escape form lockdown to move to the next stage.
Boris Johnson wants non-essential shops to reopen in nine day time, as well as the return of some primary school classes.
‘PRESSURE TO DELIVER’
But government scientists have warned the contact tracing programme must be up running first as a fail safe, as tracers can track 10,000 new cases a day.
NHS bosses issued a warning yesterday that time was fast running out. In a letter to the Health Secretary, NHS Confederation boss Niall Dickson said: “We really do need to get on with this. I’m not saying it’s impossible but there is concern at a local level”.
He added: “Frenetic efforts are going on now. Real progress in the last four or five days. People are under real pressure to deliver, but there is always a risk that we don’t quite make it”.
Matt Hancock insisted it doesn’t matter that the NHS’s contact tracing app won’t be introduced at the same time on June 1, but “weeks” later.
The Health secretary insisted: “The technology is an important part, but not the only part”. But the government’s testing tsar John Newton admitted it takes too long to process Covid-19 tests at the moment, with only 80% being turned around within 48 hours.
Mr Newton said: “We’re working very hard to get turnaround times down. It would be more effective if we could do it quickly”. Support packages for local hospitals, GPs and councils so they can help with isolation orders are to be trialled in 10 local areas within days.
Support packages for local hospitals, GPs and councils so they can help with isolation orders are to be trialled in 10 local areas within days.
They were named yesterday as Tameside in greater Manchester, Warwickshire, Leeds, Camden, Devon, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Norfolk, Surrey and Leicestershire.
As HOAR revealed, No10 delayed track and trace’s roll out this week, fearing it has one shot to gain the public’s trust for it.
Ministers blamed “shoddy handling” of last week’s unveiling for a loss of confidence across the nation.