Staff at the UK’s largest independent travel agency have been put to work as coronavirus contact tracers for the government.
Hays Travel, which initially pitched for the scheme in March, has been subcontracted by logistics firm Serco to carry out the task.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told The Observer: “Hays Travel has been subcontracted by Serco to provide support for NHS Test and Trace.
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“Hays Travel was also subcontracted by Teleperformance to provide limited support for FCO travel advice at the height of the pandemic and also some support for the 119 service.”
Hays Travel staff are said to be engaged in Tier 3 contact tracing, which involves calling people who have come into close contact with those who have tested positive for coronavirus and encouraging them to self-isolate for 14 days, as well as take additional contact details for anyone else who might be affected.
Baroness Dido Harding, head of the NHS Test and Trace programme, said that contact tracers make 10 attempts to call each individual before they’re deleted from the system.
But a recent report from The Independent suggests that number could be closer to four times in 48 hours.
Those working as part of the Test and Trace programme don’t need specialist medical knowledge, but they do need to be comfortable with cold calling.
Hays Travel recently announced that it would be cutting around 900 jobs due to the ongoing travel restrictions.
The owners, John and Irene Hays, said the slump in business caused by the government’s sudden warning against travel to Spain, as well as the changes to the furlough scheme, left them with no choice.
“We are devastated that after all of our efforts and the huge investment we’ve made we now face losing some of our valued employees through no fault of their own,” the couple said in a statement.
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