The new NHS Test and Trace service, which was launched yesterday (Thursday 28 May) in England, has raised concerns about the possible repercussions for independent garages.
The programme aims to help identify, contain and control COVID-19 but garage staff may find themselves in isolation on more than one occasion, putting even more strain on independents trying to recover from the UK’s lockdown restrictions.
How ‘Test and Trace’ works
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions.
This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within two metres for more than 15 minutes.
People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.
If those in isolation develop symptoms, they can book a test online or by calling 119.
If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for seven days or until their symptoms have passed.
If they test negative, they must complete the 14-day isolation period.
Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 14 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
Anyone with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in their sense of smell or taste is asked to immediately report these symptoms and book a test.
NHS COVID-19 app
Meanwhile, work continues on the NHS COVID-19 app, which will form a part of the NHS Test and Trace service, and is due to be launched in the coming weeks.
It will significantly extend the speed and reach of contact tracing, making it possible to trace contacts made with people not known to the infected person.
What it means for independent garages
Industry experts are encouraging garage owners to follow sector-specific guidance to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
To avoid business disruption as a result of Test and Trace, face-to-face interactions that take place within two metres should be kept to a minimum and not carry on for more than 15 minutes.
If a member of staff has been identified by Test and Trace to have come into contact with COVID-19 they must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have any symptoms.
Government advice states that 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.
The NHS ‘Test and Trace’ service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that someone has been told to self-isolate to help employers reclaim statutory sick pay.
Frank Harvey, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association told GW many independents are already reducing contact time and adhering to social distancing rules.
“Solutions to keep business going”
He said: “Test and Trace has implications for everyone but as a sector we’re already finding solutions to problems nobody could have predicted.
“It’s all about following government guidelines and adopting new distancing measures such as vehicle collection options, key drop-off points and then once you’ve got the vehicle, disinfecting it and use seat, steering wheel and gear stick covers.
“Everybody want’s to get back to work and we all want to keep the reproduction rate of COVID-19 as low as possible, so it’s really encouraging to see that garages are finding solutions to keep business going.”
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.”
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