7 things we learned behind-the-scenes at Manchester’s test and trace hub

From keeping outbreaks at bay to debunking myths, we recently went behind-the-scenes at Manchester’s test and trace hub to see what we could learn.

Team leader Sue Brown took time out of her day to provide an insight into the steps that are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the city. Here are the top 7 things we took away from our meeting:

Test and trace hub Team leader Sue Brown

Test and trace hub Team leader Sue Brown

1. They can’t do this without your help

Sue refers to the work that her team does with people that they contact as a partnership.

“For the work to be effective we need to trust people to be vigilant — and they need to be able to trust that we will act quickly, examine the details and help as much as possible.”

Some people may think this is a new approach, but actually it’s standard public health practice for any infectious disease — like hepatitis for example. This is why a lot of her team are from environmental health or sexual health services, both of which are underpinned by this type of approach.

‘Keep Manchester Safe’ billboards can be seen all across the city

‘Keep Manchester Safe’ billboards can be seen all across the city (Source: Reuters)

2. Self-isolation is crucial in stopping the spread of the virus

When a case is passed to the test and trace hub, the person who has tested positive for coronavirus will be asked about close contacts just before or after they developed symptoms. This is when they would have been infectious.

The person who tested positive needs to stay at home for 10 days — that’s a new change brought in recently. That 10 days starts from the point where symptoms started, or the date of their test if they were positive, but had not been showing symptoms. Everyone that person lives with must also stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days — because that’s how long it can take for the virus to incubate. It’s different from person to person as to how it develops and at what speed.

You must self-isolate when alerted

You must self-isolate when alerted (Source: HM Government)

Close contacts would then be called and also asked to self-isolate for 14 days. There are some misunderstandings about what it means to be a close contact, and it extends beyond those in your home. Sue explains:

“Being a contact is defined as exposure to someone Covid-positive within 1 metre of you, or, within 1-2 metres of the person for more than 15 minutes. And, wearing a face covering makes no difference to this definition.”

3. Keeping up-to-date with changing guidance is key

As the pandemic is an evolving situation, guidance can often change. Sue suggests the best way to keep up-to-date with information is to regularly check www.gov.uk/coronavirus for updates.

“Now is not the time to ease up or relax our guard. We all have to act now — because together we will make more impact and find a way out of the pandemic.”

A screenshot from https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

A screenshot from https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus (Source: GOV.UK)

4. It’s important for individuals to keep records

This is something that we’ve spoken about before. In order for the test and trace hub to protect as many people as possible, keep a diary of where you have been and who you have seen. This gives an accurate record if ever you are contacted by one of Sue’s team members.

Creating a journal in the notes section on your phone takes 30 seconds

Creating a journal in the notes section on your phone takes 30 seconds (Source: MCC)

Sue also suggests that you leave your details with the businesses you visit whenever you are asked.

“Businesses in the hospitality industry are advised to know, for example where people sat as well as who they were with and what time they were there. Even if diners or visitors are not defined as contacts, the business can still send out a ‘warn and inform’ letter if there has been someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 who has been on their premises. That way those customers can watch for any symptoms and also make their own decision about plans to visit someone who may be vulnerable for example.”

5. Employers also have their part to play

Employers have a major role to play in making sure that their staff understand all the details. It’s a really tough financial climate, but we have to urge people to do the right thing and stay off work for 14 days if they are found to be a contact.

“Where we need to go into premises to contain an outbreak, which is defined as 2 positive cases or more with links in time, place and person, people will be surprised at the level of detail we look at — from rotas and shift patterns, to corridor widths and people flow, job roles, cleaning regimes, common areas — right through to social distancing controls, ventilation points and delivery patterns for suppliers. We’ll even help with translations if we think there is any language barrier.”

For businesses, this means providing safe workplaces

For businesses, this means providing safe workplaces (Source: HM Government)

6. There is a set process to handle an outbreak in the workplace

Sue shared with us the step-by-step process she and her team follow in the event of an outbreak in the workplace:

  • Contact all positive cases to make sure they are self-isolating
  • Assess the risk of other potential contacts
  • Discuss the outbreak with the workplace
  • Assess the COVID-19 controls in the workplace and make any necessary changes
  • Assess if further steps are needed with partners including Public Health England
Protection of public health is a priority

Protection of public health is a priority (Source: Oli Scarff)

Further steps will be taken if Sue and her team think it’s appropriate to do so.

“We may arrange on-site testing of staff — this can help to identify asymptomatic staff who feel perfectly well but could be spreading the virus in the workplace. If such staff are identified and asked to self isolate this helps to control the outbreak. We may also require that a business closes if an outbreak isn’t contained.”

7. If you get contacted by the team, please be honest

If you are contacted by Sue and her team, she asks that you be honest.

“Hiding important information could result in the virus spreading which could have serious consequences.”

People who do not show symptoms may think that they do not need to self-isolate when asked to do so. However, they may be asymptomatic, carrying this virus and endangering the lives of those that they come into close contact with.

“It’s really important for you to self isolate if asked to do so by the national test and trace system or the Manchester team — even if you feel well.”

No one will judge you – and you may save lives.

If you are called by Manchester’s test and trace hub, be open and transparent

If you are called by Manchester’s test and trace hub, be open and transparent (Source: PA)

By following these steps, you are playing your part in helping the city on its road to recovery.

Stay safe, Manchester.

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