Coronavirus in UK live blog as it happened: latest as key workers and families to get free Covid-19 tests from Friday

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Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 7:59 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 6:00 pm

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Shoppers queue using safe distance measures at Waitrose supermarket in Rushden, England (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Coronavirus live blog, April 23

Last updated: Thursday, 23 April, 2020, 17:55

18,000 people to be hired to trace Covid-19 infections

The Health Secretary has said the government is introducing a new coronavirus contact tracing app, with 18,000 people to be hired to work on it.

The recruitment will include 3,000 clinicians to help trace infections, with training to take place over the coming weeks.

25,000 people to take part in testing

Mr Hancock said 25,000 people are to take part in the first phase of antibody testing, with plans to expand this to 300,000 over the next 12 months.

The tests are to help establish how many people have and have already had coronavirus.

Participants will provide regular samples taken from self-administered swabs and answer a few short questions.

Letters have now started to go out asking people to take part and  Mr Hancock appealed to anyone asked to become involved to do so.

NHS contact-tracing app undergoing testing

The Health Secretary said the infrastructure was being put in place to allow contact tracing to be rolled out on a large scale, stating it is “critical” in keeping the virus under control.

He confirmed that a new NHS contact-tracing app is currently undergoing testing, which will allow anyone who becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms to inform the NHS via the app.

This will then inform other users they have had significant contact with.

Drive-through mobile testing sites to increase to 48

The number of mobile drive-through regional test centres in the UK is to increase from 31 to 48, in an effort to help conduct tests at speed where needed.

Professor John Newton, coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, said: “We're going to have 48 of these pop-up facilities which can travel around the country to where they're needed most, for example in care homes."

Hancock: “Test, track and trace” could ease social distancing

The Health Secretary said the adoption of a “test, track and trace” method could enable “heavier” social distancing measures to be eased.

When done effectively, such a tracking method can help to suppress the transmission of the virus and thereby allows the UK to have lesser rules.

Mr Hancock said: "Critically, test, track and trace works more effectively when the rate of new cases is lower.

"So, the lower the rate of new cases, the more effectively you can keep it down using test, track and trace, rather than having to use heavier social-distancing measures."

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