May 17, 2020 - World

U.K. hires more than 17,000 coronavirus contact tracers

Boris Johnson

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The United Kingdom has hired 17,200 people to help track down individuals who have been in close contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus, government minister Michael Gove told the BBC Sunday.

Why it matters: The government has almost reached its goal of recruiting 18,000 contact tracers for a testing and tracking program, which it hopes to deploy next month when some shops and schools may slowly begin to reopen.

The big picture: Contact tracing is widely believed to be a must-have for reopening parts of the economy while limiting the death toll. Most countries use a combination of cellphone apps and human contact tracers to track down everyone who came into contact with an infected patient.

  • One of the biggest vulnerabilities of the strategy, however, is that it relies on public buy-in — something that is far from guaranteed, especially in the U.S.
  • In a best-case scenario, just half of Americans say they would participate in a voluntary coronavirus contact tracing program tracked with cellphones, according to the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

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