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Last updated: 7 July 2020 at 9.10am

Contact tracing identifies people who were in close contact with someone who has coronavirus. For example, family members, friends, colleagues or fellow travellers.

It is done to try to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community. The people who do this work are 'contact tracers'.

Close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person in any setting
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

If you test positive

If you test positive for coronavirus a contact tracer will call you. They will ask for contact details for any of your close contacts.

They only ask about people and places you have visited 48 hours before your symptoms started.

They do not ask about people you may have passed by on the street or in a shop. In these situations, the risk is very low.

Contact tracing is confidential. Anyone a contact tracer calls will not know it was you who gave them their contact details.

COVID Tracker app

The contact tracer will also ask if you have been using the COVID Tracker app.

If you have been, they'll ask you to use the upload function to alert your close contacts. You do this using the app. It's your choice if you want to do this.

If you agree, they'll send you a unique upload code by text message. This code unlocks the upload functionality on the app.

Read more about the COVID Tracker app and how it works.

If you are a close contact

If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive you will receive either:

  • a call from a contact tracer
  • an alert on your mobile phone, if you're using the COVID Tracker app

You may receive both if you are using the app and have asked to receive a phone call and an alert.

Contact tracer call

A contact tracer will call you and:

  • confirm your name and address
  • ask about symptoms
  • ask for the name and phone numbers of your close contacts, if necessary
  • arrange a coronavirus test for you, even if you do not have symptoms
  • advise you to restrict their movements for 14 days

You will have to restrict your movements for 14 days even if your test comes back negative. It can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it.

During the 14 days a contact tracer will text or phone you to monitor any symptoms you have, if any. If you develop any symptoms of coronavirus, call your GP.

If you are an essential healthcare worker, ring your manager and occupational health department. Do not go to work until you have spoken to them.

Read more about testing for coronavirus.

Second tests

It can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it. This is why some people may need a second coronavirus test about a week after the first one.

A contact tracer will arrange a second test, if needed.

Calls from contact tracers

Calls from contact tracers come up as a private number.

You can’t contact a contact tracer directly or return a missed call.

If you don't answer a call from a contact tracer, they will leave a message, if voice mail is working. They will let you know that they have tried to contact you. They will call them a few times, if necessary.

You may need extra help with the call. For example, if English is not your first language or if you are unwell. You can give us the name and number of a person who can take the call on your behalf. If you mention this when you are being tested, we can take their details.

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker Now