People have been urged to do their civic duty and self-isolate as the government and Swindon’s council bring in the new test and trace system.

Urging people to get themselves tested if they develop coronavirus symptoms, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “By testing and tracing it means we can identify not just people who might have it but people who could be at risk of either getting it themselves or spreading it.”

Under new rules, anyone displaying symptoms will have to be tested for Covid-19 and if they are found positive anyone who has been in close contact with them will be notified of that.

The government then expects all those people to totally self-isolate – not going out at all – for 14 days.

The tracing will initially be done manually. A smartphone app, which is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, will be made available later. In an Adver poll yesterday, half of readers said they would download the app.

If there are local outbreaks of infection councils will be part of the decision-making process to impose local lockdowns. Schools or neighbourhoods could be told to go back into a full lockdown if needed.

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Security guards at the Wroughton P&R site yesterday. The test centre is due to open on Saturday

It emerged yesterday that the woman in charge of the test and trace scheme told MPs it would not be fully operational at the local level until the end of June. Baroness Dido Harding, apparently made the admission in a call with MPs on Thursday morning

Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for adults and health, welcomed the new responsibilities, but added the details have yet to be decided.

He said: “As a council we are really pleased the government has launched its test and trace programme as we continue the fight against Covid-19. We also welcome the announcement by health secretary Matt Hancock which will enable councils to bring in their own lockdowns in the event of localised coronavirus outbreaks.

“In order to implement such lockdowns councils will need additional powers and the detail of how it will work will need to be worked through with local directors of public health. 

“We welcome any support the government can provide in helping our public health team tackle Covid-19 here in Swindon.”

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The Adver understands that the test site at the County Ground will continue to operate

The Local Government Association said environmental health, emergency planners, trading standards and public health including sexual health services and infection control nurses are some of the council areas expertise which could be used in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

The association’s Ian Hudspeth, who is a councillor in neighbouring Oxfordshire, echoed Coun Ford’s call for increased powers.

He said: “Covid-19 is best understood as a pattern of local outbreaks, rather than a national pandemic, which is why councils have a fundamental role to play in the test and trace service.

“Directors of public health need to have the necessary powers and authority to lead the response locally and tackle outbreaks early and aggressively.

“The success of the programme will also depend on the continued support and co-operation of the general public. We believe they would be reassured and encouraged if the roll-out of the service is underpinned by the leadership of their local council.”

Bath & North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group chief executive Tracey Cox stressed that the new test and trace system was “by no means a silver bullet”. 

“I would strongly urge all people to continue being alert, to use their common sense when it comes to social distancing and, most importantly, to self-isolate and get tested if they develop any coronavirus symptoms,” she added. 

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Boris Johnson at Downing Street on Thursday evening Picture: PA

That message was echoed by the prime minister last night as he announced people would be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six from June 1, as the lockdown rules were eased. People will also be able to meet in private gardens, provided they complied with social distancing rules.

Boris Johnson said: “I cannot and will not throw away all the gains we’ve made together.”