Government coronavirus contact tracing site CRASHES within minutes of launching as staff reveal first shift has been a 'complete shambles' - amid fears TWO MILLION people could be ordered to isolate at one time

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has hailed the new contact tracing scheme as it launched at 9am this morning
  • Mr Hancock said it's 'civic duty' of public to obey rules on self-isolating if you have been near infected person
  • The regime came into effect at 9am today for people with virus symptoms to request tests and be tracked
  • ***Are you a contact tracer? Or have the government's contact tracers been in touch with you today? Let us know at or ring 020 361 51783***
The government's coronavirus contact tracing site crashed on launch this morning amid complaints it has been a 'complete shambles', which has seen workers paid £10-an-hour to sit at home and do nothing.
Doctors and other staff reported major teething troubles as the much-trumpeted scheme finally got up and running, with some saying they had not even received passwords to start work - although the public-facing web forms were not affected. 
Meanwhile, NHS chiefs have warned 'key bits' of the system are not yet operational and it cannot be described as 'world class'. MPs have said they were told by the head of NHS Test and Trace, Baroness Dido Harding, that the local element will not be fully in place until the end of June.
Two giant drive-thru test centres were deserted today despite the launch, and Ikea is reclaiming a key location in west London because it wants to reopen. 
One worker manning the phones today told MailOnline she had been paid to sit and do nothing, and warned there was 'nothing we can do' about Brits who refuse to give names and telephone numbers of potential contacts.
The chaotic beginning came as Matt Hancock laughed off criticism over the delay to the NHS app that was meant to accompany the regime.
The Health Secretary insisted it was right to press ahead without the phone technology, suggesting it was important to 'get people used' to the principles.  
Under the plans, anyone with symptoms will immediately self-isolate and book a test, either at a testing centre or delivered to their home. Their household should start a 14-day isolation period too.
If the test proves negative, everyone comes out of isolation. But if the test is positive, NHS contact tracers or local public health teams will call, email or send a text asking them to share details of the people they have been in close contact with and places they have visited.
A government diagram explain how the NHS Test and Trace system will work
Boris Johnson, pictured out exercising this morning, is due to announce a loosening of lockdown later
A Covid-19 Drive through test centre at Twickenham, West London lies completely empty today - the first day of the government's test and trace roll out
The team then emails or texts those close contacts, telling them they must stay home for 14 days even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus. 
However, there were claims that the NHS trace and test website for doctors had crashed this morning. 
One contact tracer told LBC radio it had been a 'complete shambles' so far, and they had not received their logon details for the site.  
A Department of Health spokesman denied that the whole system had crashed. 
'Anyone in the country can log on and book a test if they have symptoms and we have tracers logged on to do their vital work to help stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives,' the spokesman said.
'As with all large scale operations of this kind, some staff did initially encounter issues logging on to their systems and these are rapidly being resolved.'
A £10-an-hour track and trace worker today revealed to MailOnline that she is being paid to sit at home and do nothing on the first day the system went into operation.
The worker said some members of her team had failed to complete clinical information training which meant they were not allowed to talk with people diagnosed with Covid-19.
And she revealed that those people who test positive for the virus do not have to reveal the names of people they have recently been in contact with. 

Government guidance says people might want to take HOLIDAY to obey isolation orders 

The government's own guidance to employers suggests staff could take holiday leave to comply with the isolation orders, it was revealed today.
The advice says people might 'prefer' to use holiday allocations if sick pay does not cover their usual income.  
The government's own test and trace advice suggests that workers might want to take holiday so they get full pay while they are following orders to isolate
The government's own test and trace advice suggests that workers might want to take holiday so they get full pay while they are following orders to isolate
The message emerged amid warnings the new Test and Trace system will fail to work effectively if statutory sick pay is not increased.
There are fears that many people will not be able to afford to isolate and will be forced to keep working. 
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'We need a testing and tracing programme up and running as soon as possible.
'But it will not be effective if workers are pushed into hardship when they are required to self-isolate.
'Statutory sick pay is just £95 per week - and two million workers aren't even eligible for that.
'If workers can't afford to self-isolate, then they will be forced to keep working.
'That will put them, their workmates and their local community at risk, and undermine the entire Test and Trace programme.
'The Government must extend statutory sick pay to everyone - no matter what they're paid - and raise it to the level of the real Living Wage, £260 per week.
'And the self-employed income support scheme must remain in place as a source of financial support for those forced to self-isolate. That's how to show that we really are all in this together.'
Statutory sick pay stands at £95.85 per week, and according to the Government website you could get it if you cannot work and are self-isolating.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for 'enhanced' sick pay when he was asked about the new system and people being expected to self-isolate for 14 days if contacted.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'There will be people whose work conditions and employment conditions make that difficult for them so they need that security, they need enhanced sick pay where necessary to make sure they stay at home.
'But, of course, it is perfectly possible that you could isolate for 14 days, come out, meet somebody else again whose got the virus and have to go back in. So this could be a huge burden for people.' 
Mr Ashworth said there is an 'anomaly in the regulations' at the moment, adding: 'Sick pay is only triggered, as I understand it, when somebody has tested positive.'
He added that this 'urgently needs to be ironed out'.
She said: 'Everything is voluntary and if they refuse to give us the names and telephone numbers there is nothing we can do,’ said the track and trace agent.
'We work from a script and try to persuade the person to be co-operative but if they hang up we just move on to the next person. It seems a major flaw, but there is nothing we can really do about it.'
The former shop assistant, who asked not to be named, said she was being paid £75 a day – regardless if she made any calls. After two weeks of online training she was sat at home in West London ready to work with the Government’s much trumpeted track and trace system.
She said: ‘Some teams have gone live, but I had an email saying members of my team were still undergoing training. We are expected to go live very soon.’
Details of those who test positive are passed to a company called Sitel who are running the track and trace teams across the UK.
Agents read from a prepared script when they are given the name and telephone number of a person who has been diagnosed with Covid-19. They ask for the details of friends and family the infected person has come into contact with during the previous 7-14 days. The tracing agent then contact with those on their list and informs them they have to self isolate.
The agent said they do not make any follow up telephone calls to check the people contacted are self isolating.
An army of 25,000 people have been hired at £10.00 an hour to act as the front line of the track and trace operation.
The job was advertised on the online employment site Indeed. All employees were given a series of online tutorials explaining how the system works. Agents are asked to use their own home computer but do not use their own mobile phones and instead make calls over the internet.
During training the agent said she often sat at home doing nothing while waiting for a password to arrive to be able to log into the system.
She told MailOnline: 'I am contracted for 7.5 hours a day at £10 an hour and will be paid regardless of any calls I make. We are getting more people getting in touch about working at the track and trace places – with definite teething problems.' 
MailOnline can also reveal that two giant Covid-19 drive thru test centres were deserted today as the track and trace system was launched.
Staff at Twickenham rugby ground and a newly opened site at Heathrow Airport stood around in the sunshine with barely a trickle of cars arriving for pre-booked tests.
Despite swab tests being available to anyone over the age of five showing symptoms of coronavirus, medics at the test centres who carry out swab tests had hardly anything to do.
Less than a dozen cars were at the test centre based at the rear of Twickenham rugby ground in West London. A member of staff said they had seen decreasing numbers in the past week with the weekend slots the busiest – despite the Government boasting it wanted to carry out up to 200,000 a day.
The centre has the capacity to handle up to 600 people but a day but one member of staff said they were seeing less than 200.
All tests have to be booked online and anyone turning up without an appointment is turned away.
The new site on the eastern perimeter road at Heathrow Airport has replaced the centre that was one of the first to go into operation in an IKEA car park near Wembley, North West London.
That site closed down on Wednesday as the flat pack furniture store is due to re-open next week.
The mobile test centre and all the equipment have been removed from the store’s car park with a solitary security guard on duty at the front gate.
The Heathrow site is overlooked by four British Airways passenger jets that are parked up outside an engineering hangar.
Staff in yellow high viz jackets could be seen standing around talking while waiting for cars to arrive with the one-way system for cars to enter empty. 
Ministers have been warned up to two million people could be in isolation at any given time - with doubts over whether some will be willing to stop work if they are only getting statutory sick pay.
The government's own guidance to employers suggests staff could take holiday leave to comply with the isolation orders.
'If people can't work from home, employers must ensure any self-isolating employee is receiving sick pay and give them the option to use their paid leave days if they prefer,' it says. 
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Hancock confirmed that the isolation will not be 'legally mandated' at the moment - although he said that could happen in future.   
The Health Secretary was told it was 'not a laughing matter' as he chuckled at suggestions he had rushed the system in before it is actually ready.
Sky News presenter Kay Burley pointed out that Mr Hancock had previously branded the app 'absolutely essential'. 
'You said the app was absolutely essential to track and trace. The app is still not ready,' she said.
But as Mr Hancock dissolved into giggles, she added: 'Many of my viewers will think it is not a laughing matter.'   
Mr Hancock argued that the target of getting contact tracing up and running by June 1 had still been met, despite the missing app. 
'It's priceless, Kay. I'm normally accused of delaying these things and bringing them in too slowly... you can't accuse me both of rushing it and it being delayed,' he said.
'I can't quite tell if you're saying I've gone too slow or too fast.' 
Mr Hancock insisted the Government is moving at 'just at the right speed' with the test and trace plan. 
'One of the things we learnt in the pilot on the Isle of Wight was that getting people used to that idea is important to do before we then also add the technological capability, the app, on top,' he said. 
Amid reports by Sky News that some contact tracers do not have their basic systems up and running yet, the Department of Health insisted that the 'vast majority of our 25,000 staff have completed their training'.
But NHS providers chief executive Chris Hopson said 'very key bits' were still not operational. 
'We're in the process of building test and trace,' Mr Hopson told BBC Newsnight.
'There will be a group of contact tracers who will be ready... but there are still very key bits of test and trace that still need to be built.'
The launch comes as:

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.