A locally enhanced contact tracing service which has proven successful in Peterborough in reaching people the national service has not been able to will be expanded to cover the whole of Cambridgeshire from Thursday (19 November).
As part of their concerted efforts to drive down community infections, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and the five district and city councils in Cambridgeshire, will be working closely with NHS Test and Trace to contact people who have tested positive for Covid-19, giving them help, advice and support to self-isolate, in a further bid to crack down on the pandemic.
From Thursday, officers from each of the councils who have undergone special training in contact tracing, will be following up on people who have tested positive for Covid-19 but have not responded to a call or email from the national service, and will ask them for details of their close contacts.
Council officers will initially make contact by phone, text or email asking people to call a local number - which from earlier experiences in contacting shielded people, has been found to be more effective than a contact from a national number.
But if this fails, the officers, who will all carry local authority identification - will make house to house visits to reach those people who have tested positive. They will be given advice and support on how they can stay isolated to break the chain of infection, and prevent it spreading to their household contacts. They will also be asked to share details of others they have been in contact with.
Anyone who is concerned by being contacted can call the council or local community hub to check the identity of the tracer on 0345 045 5219.
Dr Liz Robin, Director of Public Health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: "The local contact tracing service in Peterborough has been up and running since August and has proven very successful in tracing people who the national service could not. We now want to expand the local service to cover the whole county, so that we can increase the effectiveness of Test and Trace across Cambridgeshire.
"We know that the quicker we can reach people who've tested positive and get them to isolate - and to share details of who they've been in contact with - the quicker we can break the chain of infection. National Test and Trace isn't always able to do this fast enough - and some people don't respond to the national text and telephone system - so we've asked Public Health England to let us take this on locally, as we know our communities best."
Support is available for people who need to isolate - and don't have friends, family or neighbours to help - through the network of support hubs run by the district and city councils. The hubs can help people to get food and medicine without leaving home - or even find volunteers to walk dogs. This information will be given to all those who are contacted.
In addition, each of the district and city councils is running a Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme which entitles people who meet certain criteria to a one-off payment of £500.
Those who don't meet the criteria to claim from the Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme, but are still adversely affected as a result of not being able to work, can also apply for a £500 discretionary payment.
Details of these support packages is available on each of the district and city council websites.
Councillor Peter Hudson, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council's Health Committee, said: "One of the most important things we can all do to limit the spread of the virus is to self-isolate if we test positive or have been asked to as a result of being a close contact of someone who has.
"But we know that will not be easy for some people, either because they have no-one to ask for help with tasks such as grocery shopping, or because they will not be able to manage financially as a result of not being able to work.
"My message to those people is please get in touch - there is no reason for anyone not to self-isolate.
"The most important thing is that we keep caring for Cambridgeshire, we will work with local people to deliver this locally enhanced test and trace service to make sure that we can stamp out infections and get our county Covid-free."
No one contacted by NHS Test and Trace will ever be asked for money or their bank details - as the purpose is to let them know how to isolate and get support if they need it. Tests for Covid-19, whether at a mobile testing unit, official drive through centres or elsewhere, or ordered online or by phone are always entirely free