NHS Test and Trace is now in place in England, with devolved nations instigating their own similar measures, and will impact on businesses as employees are ordered to isolate. Put in place by the government, Test and Trace is nominally run by the NHS as it is believed Test and Trace callers will have more sway with the public if they say they’re from the NHS.
What will NHS Test and Trace do?
If you get symptoms of coronavirus, you should now apply for a test. If you test positive (you have coronavirus) and should self-isolate for at least 7 days from when your symptoms started – even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 14 days. Anyone you live with must self-isolate for 14 days from when your symptoms started.
In England, you’ll be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). You’ll be asked where you’ve been recently and who you’ve been in close contact with. This will help the NHS contact anyone who may have caught the virus from you. The aim is to lock down people you have infected before they can spread the virus to others.
What happens if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace?
You will be alerted by the NHS test and trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will usually come by text, email or phone call. You should then log on to the NHS test and trace website. Alternatively a trained call handler will talk you through what you must do.
You will be told to begin self-isolation for 14 days from your last contact with the person who has tested positive, even if you don’t feel unwell. Your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, if you do not have symptoms.
If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household must self-isolate immediately at home for 14 days and you must book a test at nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test or call 119 if you have no internet access. If your test is positive, you must continue to stay at home for at least 7 days and we will get in touch to ask about your contacts since they must self-isolate. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14-day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet – this is crucial to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
How will NHS Test and Trace impact businesses?
At best, you may have employees who are ordered to stay at home because they’ve had significant close contact with someone who has Coronavirus. In reality, you and your other employees won’t want them in the business anyway until they are better or have self isolated for 14 days without symptoms and the incubation period is over. These employees will be considered sick and should be put on sick pay.
At worst, if someone who works for you tests positive for Coronavirus, potentially every single one of your employees and yourself could be ordered to stay at home for 14 days instantly halting your business meaning you can’t even stay to ship outstanding orders. Your get out of jail free card is to ensure that your business and warehouse are operating COVID-19 Secure procedures as, if the infected employee worked at least 2m from other employees, then it shouldn’t be necessary for the NHS Test and Trace service to order them to also self isolate.
In reality if you haven’t already implemented COVID-19 Secure guidelines within your business then now is the time to do so no matter how small your business, how friendly you are with your employees and how much you trust them. Failing to do so could result in every employee being sent home.
The problem is, even if you know your employees well you don’t really know what they do out of work, how many BBQs or pool parties they went to over the bank holiday weekend, how many friends they’ve met up with, who they’ve played football in the park with or even if they’ve popped round to see a partner for a bit of nookie. We all know people or have seen people who have done at least one of these, but don’t forget even if your employees are ultra cautious and fully obeyed lock down rules they could have innocently stood next to someone on the underground and once the NHS Coronavirus app is up and running that could be enough for them to be ordered to isolate…. or if they get symptoms to shut you entire business down.
Test and Trace will be more punitive than for everyone to stay at home. This is because currently you can leave home for the four essential reasons (shopping, exercise, medical/care and to work) and it will mean self isolating for those who have no symptoms at all. The aim is that if you could possibly have been infected then you’ll be isolated and hopefully not catch coronavirus but you’ll be unable to work anyway. Get your business ready in case you have one, a few, or all of your employees ordered home for 14 days and by that we don’t mean prepare for the worst, but prepare with COVID-19 Secure guidelines to mitigate the potential catastrophe.