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New rules making healthy people self-isolate could ‘quickly’ become mandatory


The U.K.’s senior health minister has said a new “test and trace” system which will tell healthy people to quarantine for 14 days if they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus, could “quickly” become “mandatory.”

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, made the remarks at Wednesday’s daily coronavirus press briefing.

“The instructions to people are clear,” Hancock said. 

“If you get symptoms, isolate immediately and get a test. If you are contacted by NHS tests and trace instructing you to isolate you must – it is your civic duty so you avoid unknowingly spreading the virus and you help to break the chain of transmission,” he continued.

“This will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing, but we can quickly make it mandatory if that's what it takes.”

Hancock warned the public that “if we don't collectively make this work, then the only way forward is to keep the lockdown.”

People who test positive for the coronavirus will be interviewed by members of what is being widely described as an “army of 25,000 contact tracers” in order to learn of other people who they have been in close contact with. 

The contact tracers will then inform those people of the need to stay at home. The NHS website explains that people who are told that they’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus must self-isolate for 14 days and not leave home for any reason. “If you need food or medicine, order it online or by phone, or ask friends and family to drop it off at your home,” the website says.

Anyone who lives with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus must automatically self-isolate for 14 days. But individuals living with people who have been told to self-isolate because they have been in contact with someone else who has coronavirus, do not need to self-isolate if they do not have symptoms.