HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has said work is being undertaken to reassure Scots over the security of coronavirus contact tracing.

Further details have been revealed of the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect scheme, which will be primarily based on contact by phone or text.

With concerns about opportunities for scammers, officials have highlighted that people will only be asked about information on their movements and will not be asked to disclose details of bank accounts or medical records.

The Scottish Government also revealed it has now reached a target of recruiting 2000 contact tracers, who will get in touch with confirmed cases and their close contacts.

A spokesman said 2002 were available to health boards – with 817 in place now and the remaining 1185 to “be deployed as required”.

Freeman said contact tracers would be supported by software which will allow the work to be “securely” carried out on a much larger scale. She added: “We understand that people are alert to the risks of potential phone scams and Public Health Scotland is undertaking work to reassure people when they are contacted.”

The Test and Protect system works by trying to identify close contacts of someone who has been confirmed as having coronavirus.

Once contacted people will be expected to self-isolate for 14 days, and they will only be told the person they have been in touch with who has tested positive for Covid-19 if that person agrees to have their details revealed.

If the contact develops symptoms they should be tested and everyone in their household also has to isolate. The contract tracing process will begin again for any new cases which emerge.

Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert from the University of Edinburgh, said contract tracing was a “long-standing approach” to public health. But she added: “We’ve never done it on this scale before in the UK as far as I’m aware, in living memory.”

Bauld said the scenario of having to isolate multiple times should not happen as long as people stuck to other equally important measures – such as social distancing, handwashing and using face coverings in shop and on public transport.

She said: “I’m really hopeful, particularly in the summer months, that number of cases is going to go right down.

“However, once we get into the autumn again, unless we have treatments or a vaccine, I think there’s a real risk these cases will go up again and we’re going to have to really use the contact tracing at a higher level.”

The UK Government is also introducing a trace and test system as it eases lockdown in England more quickly than in any of the devolved nations. Yesterday experts warned it is “not fully operational” and raised concerns that UK ministers were taking risks.

Professor Peter Horby, of the University of Oxford, said: “We are entering a period where there is a risk of increasing transmission, but we don’t yet have that safety net fully in place.

“Returning to a situation where we lost control again is far worse than another week or two of social measures.”

The actions of Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings in flouting lockdown guidance has raised concerns over whether people will comply with the contact testing programme.

However polling carried out by the Scottish Government found 88% of Scots are willing to provide details of contacts and would also have a test if they develop symptoms.

A report last week by the Royal Society estimated contact tracing could reduce the number of new infections by up to 15% – on top of the “substantial” impact of social distancing, self-isolation of people with symptoms and quarantine of their household contacts.

Report co-author Dr Guy Harling, senior research fellow at University College London, said: “The more we can persuade people to get involved at each step along the way, the bigger the impact of the process.

“There’s a benefit to you personally of getting involved, because you get to treatment faster if you’re sick.

“There is benefit to your family and friends because they don’t get infected or get out of quarantine quickly.

“And obviously if we all do this, then the curve goes down faster, and we all get to come out of lockdown faster.”

Harling said countries where testing and tracing appeared to work most effectively – such as New Zealand and South Korea – had introduced the system at an early stage when there were relatively few cases.

“Obviously we have a lot more cases right now in the UK – hopefully that will go down – but as a result, you have to trace a lot of people right now,” he said.

“In somewhere like South Korea they were tracing something like a hundred people per case. My impression is that’s not the goal of any system in the UK at the moment.”

Dr Roderick Bailey, research fellow at Oxford University’s Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, said the process of contact tracing dates as far back as the 19th century, when people “pounded the streets” to speak to potential cases.

He said the approach of calling people to discuss their movements would have to be done sensitively and there was an advantage in carrying out discussions face-to-face.

“Especially as under isolation conditions or social distancing, some of the contacts you might have had might have been from something you have done which doesn’t quite conform with what the government is telling you to do,” he said.

Bailey said governments and countries which have had recent experience of disease and epidemics were the most likely to devote large resources to contact tracing.

He said: “They have first hand experience and memories are very vivid of what of diseases can do to the population. One of the problems we’re facing today is this is kind of new.”