UK health secretary Matt Hancock isolates after getting an alert by the National Health Service
PIC: AFP

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock began a period of self-isolation on Tuesday after he revealed he had been pinged an alert by the National Health Service (NHS) COVID-19 app overnight.

The minister, who also spent time in self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic last year, said he learned from the NHS Test and Trace app on Monday night that he had been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive and self-isolating was "how we break the chains of transmission".

"So you must follow these rules like I'm going to. I've got to work from home for the next six days, and together, by doing this, by following this, and all the other panoply of rules that we've had to put in place, we can get through this and beat this virus," Hancock said in a video message on Twitter.

A 10-day self-isolation, which means staying at home without any exception, is a legal requirement in the UK for anybody who has COVID-19 symptoms, has tested positive for the virus, lives with someone who has symptoms, has arrived from abroad or has been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace app.

The mobile phone application, launched last year, uses Bluetooth technology to track individuals who may later test positive for the virus.

Hancock's message comes as the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics show that about one in 10 people across the UK tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies in December 2020.

The study based on antibody data analysis showed a considerable spike in infections as it found that on a region-wise breakdown one in eight or 12 per cent of people in England had antibodies last month, up from 7 per cent in October 2020; one in 10 or 10 per cent in Wales, up from 4 per cent; one in 11 or 9 per cent people in Scotland, up from 7 per cent; and one in 13 or 8 per cent people in Northern Ireland, up from 2 per cent.

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