THE government will resume contact tracing across the country and in a move that will be 'vital to the easing of lockdown restrictions' and will 'save' lives.

The NHS Test and Trace service is being launched across England in an urgent bid to curb the spread of coronavirus through close contact tracing.

From tomorrow, those who test positive for Covid-19 will be contacted from a team of 25,000 tracers and asked to provide information about their recent interactions with others.

New guidance on this includes people from the same household, and people who they have been in contact with since symptoms began.

The service is being launched eight weeks after widespread contact tracing was abandoned following the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in the UK March.

But the government, this evening, said the return of contact tracing would be 'central' to the government's effort on tackling the virus and preventing a potential second wave of infections.

'Vital to stopping spread of virus'

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock said NHS Test and Trace would be 'vital' to stopping the spread of the virus in England as he suggested national lockdowns would be replaced in the 'next stage' of the government's plans.

He said: "As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we will be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks.

"NHS Test and Trace will be vital to stopping the spread of the virus."

The launch comes as a further 412 people died overnight bringing the Covid-19 death toll in the UK to 32,460 fatalities as of Tuesday.

Mr Hancock said: "It (NHS Test and Trace) is how we will be able to protect our friends and family from infection, and protect our NHS.

"This new system will help us keep this virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally."

New rules issued

Under the NHS Test and Trace guidance, those who have been in close contact with an individual that has tested positive for Covid-19 will be required to self-isolate for two weeks.

If those who have been contacted then go on to develop symptoms, they will be asked to to book a coronavirus test – they must then continue to stay at home for seven further days if they test positive.

But under the rules, even those who test negative for the virus must still complete the two week isolation period.

Meanwhile members of their household will not be required to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which they must also self-isolate for two weeks.

'We all need to play our part'

Dido Harding, Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: “This is a brand new service which has been launched at incredible speed and scale.

"NHS Test and Trace already employs over 40,000 people, both directly and through trusted partners, who are working hard to deliver both testing and contact tracing at scale.

"This is no small achievement and I am hugely grateful to everyone involved.

“NHS Test and Trace will not succeed on its own – we all need to play our part.

"This is why we are working hand-in-hand with communities and local authorities across the country to tailor support at a local level, and respond quickly to local needs.

"And we will be constantly developing and improving as we go.

"Together we can help contain the virus, stop it spreading further and ultimately save lives.”

A new NHS COVID-19 app is expected to be rolled out across the country in coming weeks and is expected to "significantly" speed up the NHS Test and Trace service.

The app, which has already been trialled in Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, will allow users to directly input details of those potentially affected.

Professor John Newton, National Coordinator of Test and Trace, said: “At this critical point in the nation’s response to coronavirus we are launching a service that will enable us to emerge more safely from lockdown.

"To control the virus we still need to continue with social distancing and good hygiene, but we also now have a comprehensive test and trace service to stop new cases spreading.

"This approach will allow us to gradually return to more normal personal, social and economic lives while recognising that we have to stay alert and respond rapidly to any advice from the new service."