Council in Milton Keynes on alert to help with national drive on coronavirus contact tracing

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Milton Keynes Council is gearing up to support the next phase of the national battle against coronavirus.

Public Health England (PHE) has put councils on alert for the start of contact tracing, when people will be alerted if they have been close to someone with symptoms of covid-19.

It includes making phone calls and using a new smartphone app to tell people what they should do next.

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In a letter sent to local directors of public health, including Muriel Scott at Milton Keynes Council, PHE said a drive is underway to employ 18,000 people nationally who will be phoning to give people advice.

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PHE deputy chief executive, Richard Gleave, said: “Contact tracing is core public health endeavour and in an unprecedented situation as this pandemic, this needs a co-ordinated national, regional and local response.

“Your contribution as local leaders will be essential in taking forward contact tracing for this next phase.”

They are also working ways to offer support to people who have to self-isolate.

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Phone-based contact tracing will work with people for whom digital channels are not appropriate or possible and includes a service for people whose first language is not English.

The service will be designed to take into account how best to link contact tracing into local shielding and community programmes set up to protect and support people.

Mr Gleave said the NHS CV19 app is an automated system for rapid symptom reporting, ordering of swab tests, and sending tailored and targeted alerts to other app users who have had close contact.

“Once a member of the public installs the app, it will start logging the distance

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between their phone and other phones nearby that also have the app installed,” he said.

He added that if people become unwell with symptoms of COVID-19, they can choose to allow the app to inform the NHS which will trigger an anonymous alert to other users with whom they came into significant contact over the previous few days.

The app will advise contacts what action to take if they have been close to someone who has become symptomatic – including advising them to self-isolate if necessary.

A spokesman for Milton Keynes Council said: “We’re aware of this and are ready to support Public Health England if required.”