Local contact tracing helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Oxfordshire

More than 500 residents have been successfully reached and had their contacts identified by Oxfordshire’s local COVID-19 contact tracing system since it launched in mid-October – making a crucial contribution to #StopTheSpread across the county.

The scheme is a partnership between the six Oxfordshire councils, Public Health England, NHS Test and Trace and Oxford’s two universities. The NHS Test and Trace national system initially tries to contact all cases in the county but where they are unable to reach someone within 24 hours, the case passes to Oxfordshire’s local contact tracing team.

Dr Adam Briggs, Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health Consultant, said: “The success of the team over the past six weeks has been a key contribution to the recent fall in COVID cases we’ve seen in the county. It is one of a number of local systems we have in place to help manage the virus, including expanded testing capacity and our COVID-secure team who are working with businesses across the county to ensure they are following the guidance.

“The 500 local residents we have reached may not otherwise have been contacted and, without our local contact tracing team, they and their contacts may have gone on to spread the virus during October and November.

“Our local Oxfordshire County Council call handlers first try to reach a case by phone. But where they are unable to get through, trained staff from the city and district councils visit cases at home to speak with cases and deliver letters explaining why the council is trying to get in touch and asking people to contact the call centre.

“People contacted are advised to isolate, talked through how to access local support when isolating and asked about details of their close contacts so these can then be followed up by the national NHS Test and Trace team.”

The service has been running seven days a week, with calls coming from the council using a local (01865) phone number. Text messages and emails are also sent to people with mobile phones and email addresses telling them to expect a call.

Adam added: “The extra layer of protection that the contact tracing system has provided has been valuable and it will continue to be an extra tool in the fight against the virus as we enter winter. We are very pleased with how it has been operating since its launch.

“If you are contacted, it will be a locally based person on the other end of the phone. They will talk to you about what you need to do to protect your friends and family whilst isolating and about what support is available nearby.

“The overall aim is simple – to limit the transmission of COVID-19. By isolating when you have symptoms, getting a test and picking up the phone when we call, we will give ourselves an even better chance to #stopthespread."

Oxfordshire will be moving into tier 2 local restrictions on Wednesday when national lockdown is lifted. For more information about what this means and how you can protect yourself, your family, and your community, see the COVID pages on Oxfordshire County Council’s website.

The government decides which areas of the country are allowed to launch local test and trace systems based on various criteria including the number of local cases being reported. Oxfordshire was given approval to launch its local system on 13 October and was one of the first in the south-east to go live.