In the next four weeks, the Health and Welfare Agency expects an influx of 336 net full-time equivalents (FTEs) in contact tracing. This means the additional deployment of 558 new employees. Cool, but if you’ve been spending your fall vacation in the Ardennes with 35 friends – read: party, restaurant, children’s playground – can all of these contacts be identified at all? Joris Munins of the Health and Welfare Agency is not shy about thorny questions.
Is contact tracing still possible in a society where we can see each other without restrictions?
Joris Munins: “That’s not an easy story of course, because compared to the past, contact tracing is less intense when far fewer people had to be called. We used to be able to really do ‘case management’, to see who was in contact with whom was who. In any meeting. That was very profound.”
A group of friends of 35 adults and children rented a house in the Ardennes during the fall holidays. The weather was bad so the kids also visited the children’s playground. Suppose someone tests positive, how do you determine all of that?
“If someone from that group tested positive, they would be called and asked who they had been in contact with. When he then named 35 names, that was much better. If he only mentioned fifteen, then you only have fifteen. As far as it is concerned. It’s an inside ballpark: nowadays we can’t investigate this in detail as we were able to do in the past. Contact tracing can no longer investigate every line, that’s just the case. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s still worth doing. The lines of communication that you check and the lines of contamination you have already cut work to curb the spread of the virus and are therefore beneficial.”
Testing, contact tracing and vaccinations are the last screws on the door in an otherwise open community
I have been vaccinated and have a runny nose. I am not planning to take the test. To what extent is this a problem?
“There will always be a part of the population that will get infected without being tested and maybe that group has grown now, that may be the case. That doesn’t change the fact that we can do research around the people who are being tested, and these are always barriers that prevent the virus from spreading further. So they are Not useless at all.”
Have you ever felt like wiping with the push of an open button?
“Contact tracing is still working fine. No technical issues as at the beginning, the only problem is the numbers are too high for the staff we can deploy now. Testing, contact tracing and vaccinations are the last two screws in an otherwise completely open community.”
How many people are involved in contact tracing?
“We’re going to 735 full-time equivalents; that’s just under a doubling compared to nearly six weeks ago when there was no fourth wave at all.”
Does high-risk communication still mean the same as in the first, second, and third wave?
The definition of high-risk communication has not changed. The connection is still more than fifteen minutes, unprotected at less than a meter and a half. So this basic definition remains unchanged. Logically, the virus became more contagious.”
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