News Local Contact tracing is arduous work, says epidemiologist

Contact tracing is arduous work, says epidemiologist

Contact tracing is hard and continuous, said epidemiologist and member of the Epidemiological Monitoring Unit of the Ministry of Health  Valentinos Silvestros, noting that so far thousands of contacts have been examined.

He told CNA that the Unit began work from the moment the first coronavirus cases in Cyprus were announced and will continue until measures are lifted.

“We trace the contacts of confirmed cases and look for possible new cases. We examine the contacts of each case. If a positive case works in a supermarket or an office, that case’s contacts fall outside his/her family and they are a lot more, he said.

It is very long and painstaking procedure because you have to talk to the patient. As soon as you announce the positive result, you have to start working fast and locate the case’s contacts and contain them so that there is no further exposure to the community, Silvestros added.

Asked how many contacts have been examined, he said they are thousands. “Imagine, from the 772 cases we have had so far, each had 3-4 contacts, then you understand that we are talking about many people”.

He explained that this is a very important procedure because it averts the spread of the virus. “We locate the contacts that might have been infected, we restrict them and make sure the virus is not spread to others”, Silvestros added.

Before the pandemic, the unit numbered five persons. Now, it has been reinforced with more staff to help tracing become effective. “There are 15 people working in the contact tracing unit but if the need arises, then this number can go up to 30”, he told CNA.

He said that usually those who have contracted the virus cooperate, but there have been instances where they refused to reveal their contacts.

“It is highly significant to locate the contacts of a confirmed case and restrict them. Every person is different. We are trying to persuade them of the seriousness of the situation. Most of them cooperate. Those that don’t, we have had to find different ways to persuade them. In some cases, we had to cite the legal framework which covers us.”

Cyprus, he added, “has been commended by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for its work, as not all countries carry out contact tracing.

Our colleagues from the ECDC say that we are carrying out excellent work and dedicate a lot of time and resources on carrying out the procedure. We have quality data on the cases and contacts. It is very hard for other countries to carry out contact tracing.

When there are thousands of cases and there is no time or resources, they cannot do that. We have the luxury however to do this because the number of our confirmed cases are low and there is a political will to do so”, he concluded.


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