A LOCAL contact tracing service is being launched in response to rising infection rates in the town.

Reading Bough Council (RBC) is working with Public Health England to provide local contact tracing – an enhanced service to the National Test and Trace system, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Two new coronavirus deaths at Royal Berkshire Trust

RBC is working with other Berkshire authorities and the Director for Public Health Berkshire, as part of a pilot for the National Test and Trace service.

Learnings from local contact tracing services will be used to support other local authorities to implement their own systems.

The RBC contact tracing service will be staffed by the council's customer service team.

Local contact tracing increases the number people who can be informed when they have tested positive for COVID-19, which means they can take action to help stop the spread of the virus.

How does Test and Trace work?

When an individual tests positive for coronavirus, the NHS Test and Trace service makes contact with individuals - sending a text, email alert or phone call – with instructions of how to share details of people with whom they have had close, recent contact and places they have visited.

This ensures appropriate advice is given to those who need it.

If NHS Test and Trace are unable to make contact for 24 hours, the case is passed to the local authority to follow up.

Local data and community knowledge are used for a more targeted approach and local intelligence can be gathered and used to act quickly if a breakout occurs.

The council’s team will run through a tracing questionnaire, signpost to support and help individuals identify who they've been in direct and close contact with.

Direct contact is defined as face to face contact, within one metre for one minute or longer.

Close contact is defined as one to two metres distance for 15 minutes or more.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, RBC's lead member for Health said: "Because the national Test and Trace system is failing to meet its targets, this new Reading contact tracing service is vitally important to help combat the pandemic.

"Residents will be called by someone from Reading, who understands our area, our communities and the local support and advice available.

"Importantly, we will be able to talk with residents directly affected so we can signpost them to any help they or their families may need.

"I would encourage people who receive a call to pick up, it is vitally important to help us control the spread of the virus but also so we can provide an extra level of support to those affected."

RBC's local contact tracing telephone service will operate seven days a week:

Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday to Sunday from 10am to 1pm.

Calls will come from a Reading 0118 number.

READ MORE: Reading Covid cases continue to rise

Data will be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018, a data sharing agreement was signed between Public Health England and Reading Borough

Council September 2020 by the Strategic Director of Public Health for Berkshire.

The service began today (Monday, October 26).