Some Britons will be resistant to going into isolation when contacted by Covid-19 tracers because lockdown has had such a gruelling impact on the public, a Public Health England chief has recognised.

Prof Isabel Oliver, who helped design the Government  programme to trace people at risk of infection, told the Sunday Telegraph that the “vast majority” of those already contacted were proving willing to help.

However, she said the public were also already asking questions of call operators, and she signalled it would be too optimistic to expect 90 per cent of those contacted to help.

“This has been a very prolonged outbreak” said the interim director of the National Infection Service, explaining why PHE was factoring in an expectation that a minority would be either uncooperative or uncontactable. 

“Invariably we find that everyone is very willing to help, but these are exceptional circumstances, with an outbreak that has been so prolonged and had such an extensive impact on the people’s lives, so it is understanding that some people will be resistant. But having said that we are finding that lots of people are supportive and we are very grateful for that because for the programme to be successful in controlling the virus – we need that support from the nation as a whole.”

The test and trace programme got under way in England on Thursday, and Prof Oliver and her team were immediately forced to iron out IT problems which led to some of the tracers being unable to log in to the Government system.

However, she insisted “the first 24 hours have gone well”. “There have been a few issues that we have identified which we are working on, but no major problems,” she added. “Our web tool has worked very well.” The delays in getting tracers logged in was because they were running a “very secure system”.

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