Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the UK's coronavirus contact tracing programme will finally launch this morning - with the members of the public being forced to isolate if they come into contact with positive individuals or face being fined.
The NHS Test and Trace system for England will see anyone who develops symptoms told to self-isolate and get tested, with the close contacts of those who are found to be positive for the disease then told to quarantine for 14 days even if they test negative and are not sick.
Mr Hancock said that adhering to self-isolation would be 'voluntary at first' but that he could 'quickly make it mandatory if that is what it takes'.
He told the daily Downing Street press conference: 'If you are contacted by NHS Test 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.'
The system is being launched without its NHS contact tracing app centrepiece prompting concerns that without the new technology the Government could struggle to tackle the spread of the disease.
Experts immediately said the complexity of the programme meant there could be 'several points of failure' while the Government's political opponents said ministers should never have largely ditched contact tracing in the first place.
The launch of the programme was announced by Boris Johnson during an appearance in front of the Liaison Committee yesterday as he admitted the UK's testing capability was underpowered at the start of the outbreak because the 'brutal reality' was Britain did not 'learn the lessons' of previous pandemics.
Insisting self-isolation would only be an imposition for a 'tiny minority', he added: 'I would just say to everybody that it's worth it because that is the tool that other countries have used to unlock the prison.'
Coronavirus testing eligibility was yesterday extended so that anyone with symptoms, even the under-fives, can now get checked.
Daily testing capacity is currently 161,000 but the latest numbers showed that only 117,000 were carried out yesterday while photographs showed some drive-through testing sites were empty.
The Government is pinning its hopes of ending the nationwide lockdown on the success of the test and trace scheme but it will go live without the NHSX app which digitally records close contacts and https://telegra.ph/Searching-For-a-Hot-Job-in-Retirement-07-06 will massively speed up the contact tracing process.
Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, claimed the app is just the 'cherry on the cake, not the cake itself' but ministers had wanted the technology, currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight, to roll out nationwide in the middle of this month.
Problems with its development have seen it delayed which means the new scheme will initially be entirely reliant on an army of 25,000 contact tracers to track people down and prevent a second wave of infections.
Ms Harding did concede that the rollout of the massive new system is unlikely to be straightforward as she said 'there will be some kinks, for sure' as experts warned the roll out could be bumpy.
Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health, University of Edinburgh, said for it to work there would need to be sufficient testing capacity, fast results, confidence in the data handling and a willingness from people to self-isolate.
She said: 'Given all these steps, we shouldn't expect that this will work perfectly and there could be several points of failure.'
Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, said the Government should never have 'abandoned contact tracing in mid-March' and and that decision had left a 'huge gap in our defences against the virus'.
Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, claimed the contact tracing app is just the 'cherry on the cake, not the cake itself'
A drive-through coronavirus testing centre was pictured empty at Manchester Airport as Matt Hancock announced anyone with symptoms can now get checked
Mr Hancock told the daily Downing Street press conference that test and trace could allow the nationwide lockdown to be eased
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox news halfRHS" data-version="2" id="mol-7ef58940-a02b-11ea-95b7-a57a5c8d7a06" website contact tracing scheme to launch TODAY without NHS app