Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says that contact tracing remains a critical part of the Ministry’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He said that the process has not ceased amid the community transmission phase of the virus.
“Contrary to reports… that contact tracing has ceased, that we no longer do contact tracing, we are still engaged in contact tracing and that, therefore, is a wrong impression to give,” he noted.
Dr. Tufton, who was addressing the Ministry’s weekly virtual COVID Conversations press briefing on Thursday (September 24), informed that the health authorities are following some 3,690 contacts throughout the country.
“This means that contact tracing is, in fact, taking place in a different way, perhaps not as a quarantine community but, certainly, there are contacts scattered across the country and that requires some level of tracing or investigating.
It’s a lot of work, but it is happening and we will continue and change as appropriate,” he said.
Dr. Tufton noted, as well, that the Ministry has been boosting the complement of the country’s community health aides (CHA) to assist in the continued fight against COVID-19.
“That is why we had announced long ago, the engagement of additional staff in the field in the form of community health aides. We have gotten permission and have budgeted for 1,200 such personnel and… we have at least 700 or 800 deployed,” he informed.
He said that the expansion of the programme is critical, as the workers will assist in providing information to citizens about their role in infection prevention and control.
Dr. Tufton also pointed out that 121 doctors have been deployed to bolster the numbers of front-line workers assisting with the fight against the virus.
He noted, too, that bed spaces, testing capacity, among other provisions, have been enhanced.
Dr. Tufton said that the Government and the Ministry are committed to ensuring that the response to the COVID pandemic is “adequate, thoughtful, deliberate and is acting in the best interest of the population”.
“We are continuing to take COVID-19 and the response as a very important and absolute priority for the health and wellness of the population. The numbers are concerning and every positive case is a concern, every death is a tragedy and, each day, we deliberate over how to improve the process and the response,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based in the United States of America, contact tracing is part of the process of supporting patients with suspected or confirmed infection and warning contacts of exposure, in order to stop chains of transmission.
It is a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.
In contact tracing, public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone with whom they have had close contact during the time frame when they may have been infectious. Public health staff then warn these exposed individuals (contacts) of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible.
Further, contacts are provided with education, information, and support to understand their risk, what they should do to separate themselves from others who are not exposed, monitor themselves for illness, and the possibility that they could spread the infection to others even if they themselves do not feel ill.