WHO tells Boris Johnson NOT to lift lockdown until tracing works

WHO tells Boris Johnson NOT to lift Britain’s coronavirus lockdown until contact tracing system works ‘properly’

  • WHO’s director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, said England needed to be cautious
  • He said it was important country ensure it had a ‘robust track and trace system’
  • Comes as ministers prepare to drop two-metre rule in effort to help businesses
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

England should not ease lockdown until the NHS contract tracing system aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus is ‘effective’, the World Health Organization has said.

As the UK government prepares to launch a ‘comprehensive review’ of the strict two-metre social distancing regulations currently in place, WHO’s director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, has voiced caution on the move.  

Dr Kluge, who was previously WHO Europe’s Lead on Health Systems and Public Health, said it was imperative that the country ‘do it carefully’ and ensure it had a ‘robust track and trace system in place’ before reopening the economy. 

The warning comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak today said ministers were ‘urgently’ looking at whether the two metre social distancing rules could be relaxed to help businesses.  

WHO’s director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge (pictured), has said England should exercise caution as it prepares to relax its lockdown measures  

Speaking to The Guardian, the WHO chief said the point at which the country began to ease out of lockdown was as important as the moment the country entered its strict social distancing measures.   

He said: ‘The key words here are to do it gradually. Do it carefully. 

‘Contact tracing is key especially as the UK starts to relax the social and physical distancing measures. There has to be a robust track and trace system in place of operation.

‘I would like to reply [to questions about the first results of the system] and say we need an effective tracking system in place, it is one of the measures that we recommend that are in place now.’ 

Dr Kluge added that with summer holidays on the horizon, it was important that Europe did not become complacent and crucial that governments issue the flu vaccine to those who were vulnerable. 

During its first week in operation, the system in England had managed to track about 31,000 contacts of the 8,117 people who had tested positive. 

However it was later revealed that the trace and track system has only tracked down the contacts of two thirds of Covid-19 patients between May 28 and June 3, with contact tracers only about to get information from 67 per cent (5,407) of those who had tested positive.

The Department of Health also admitted that hundreds had not responded to phone calls or had refused to give details of people they had been in contact with.  

Baroness Dido Harding, who leads the test and trace scheme, admitted: ‘Is it completely perfect? No, of course it isn’t.’

She added: ‘We won’t have got all of the contacts. Some were unreachable, some didn’t want to provide contacts, some said ”well, I’ve already told my mates I tested positive”.   

The government has now launched a review to decide whether to drop the two-metre rule in place. Pictured: Boris Johnson at Downing Street’s press conference

The Test and Trace scheme requires anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person to  self-isolate for 14 days

The new NHSX app uses Bluetooth technology to alert people when they’ve been close to a Covid-19 patien

Under the Track and Trace scheme, Britons who have been in close contact with infected patients are being told to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they are asymptomatic.

The scheme will require anyone who develops symptoms associated with the coronavirus to get tested by ordering a test online or by calling 119.

If a patient tests positive they must remain in isolation and will be asked to share phone numbers and email addresses for close contacts.

Those who are listed will then receive a text message or email asking them to self-isolate for 14 days depending on the point at which they came in contact with the infected person.  

The system is designed to break the chain of transmission as quickly as possible in order to squash potential outbreaks and stop them from escalating.  

Yesterday Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government had put in place a ‘comprehensive review’ of the current social distancing guidelines

The WHO chief’s comments come as Mr Sunak confirmed the government had put in place a ‘comprehensive review’ of the current social distancing guidelines.

Speaking on Sky News yesterday he said: ‘The Prime Minister has put in place a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule. That review will involve the scientists, economists and others so that we can look at it in the round.

‘I know that of course it’s the difference between three-quarters and maybe a third of pubs opening, for example, so it’s important that we look at it.’   

Today it was revealed that Britain’s coronavirus death toll had risen by just 36 today – the lowest since before full lockdown. 

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