Norfolk County Council will step-in to trace coronavirus cases after a new locally-run contact tracing service was approved by Public Health England.

It’s hoped the new service will speed-up the tracing process, which could be good news for the local economy.

The Norfolk service will be used when NHS Test and Trace teams cannot contact new cases within 24 hours. 

Specially trained council call handlers will make further attempts to contact COVID-19 cases, including checking local information to clarify and improve data details, a council spokesman said.

The new service will extend out to ground teams at all of the district councils, including West Norfolk Council, to further increase the chances of tracking people down.

Dr Louise Smith, the council’s director of public health, said: “Having the information ourselves will help us identify trends and sharing information at an earlier stage will most definitely speed up the tracing process, and give us early flags around what could become an outbreak.”

The new service is being paid for using the £3.7m Norfolk was allocated by the government to develop a Local Outbreak Control Plan.

Norfolk was one of 11 pioneer authorities chosen to represent urban and rural areas, with each receiving a share of £300m funding to develop the tailored plans.

Tom McCabe, head of paid service, said: “Our commitment to support locally based contact tracing is the right thing to do to reach out to and protect our communities and businesses. 

“Should we experience further outbreaks, we will be in a better position to prioritise testing.”

Before more of the work transfers to the county council, the complex process of contact tracing is done entirely by Public Health England from its regional team.

Council leader Andrew Proctor, chairman of the Norfolk COVID-19 Engagement Board, added: “Speed is of the essence when dealing with a virus, so increasing the performance of contact tracing should mean more cases are contacted and given advice and support to self-isolate.

“Being proactive will also have a positive effect on the Norfolk economy – quickly identifying and containing the spread of the virus should allow businesses to return to operation as quickly as possible.”

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