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1 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

“Perfectly reasonable“ for UK to lift lockdown before full tracing system in place, says WHO expert

By Samuel Horti

The World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19 has said it would be reasonable for the UK to begin lifting lockdown measures before a full coronavirus tracking and tracing system was in place.

The government plans to launch an NHS coronavirus tracking app and recruit thousands of people to help trace the spread of Covid-19 within the next few weeks. WHO’s David Nabarro told the BBC that a contract tracing system was “absolutely essential” for reducing transmission, but that it would be safe to ease lockdown restrictions before such a system was up and running. 

“You don’t need to have 100 per cent contact tracing in order to get the R number down,” he said, referring to the number of people someone with coronavirus goes onto infect, which the government insists must remain below one.

“The contact tracing is an absolutely essential part of reducing transmission, and getting that capacity as widely spread as possible is key to getting the transmission as low as you can. But you certainly can release the lockdown while you’re building up the case finding and contact tracing capacity – that’s what most other countries are doing.

“They don’t wait until everything is ready and so it’s perfectly reasonable for Britain to be thinking through these options and working out how it’s going to do the next steps.”

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