The United Kingdom's new track and tracing programme has officially been launched, with those who tested positive for COVID-19 now receiving messages asking for details about people they have recently been in contact with, to help identify new cases of the virus.

Fears have been voiced by health officials that thousands of care home and NHS staff might be forced to stay at home and self-isolate as a result of the Government’s test-and-trace programme, reported the Daily Mail.

Under the newly-launched scheme, anyone who has had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 will receive a text message or email requesting them to stay at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

However, health officials are reportedly considering the idea of exempting some key workers from the process, recalling the situation at the height of the pandemic, when close to a quarter of NHS workers and care staff were self-isolating at some point.

Concerns have been raised with NHS England that situation might be repeated, gravely impacting the work of healthcare services.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, is quoted by the outlet as saying:

“Many services have struggled with staffing levels through the pandemic... and if significant numbers of NHS or care staff need to isolate, services will be affected.”