Contact

Contact tracing programme to be ramped up in Northern Ireland as part of the fight against coronavirus

Any new cases will be followed quickly, say Department of Health

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Northern Ireland’s contact tracing programme is continuing to expand, with all positive cases of COVID-19 now being contact traced.

Contact tracing is an important part of infection control, and is a key part of Health and Social Care’s work to help reduce the impact of COVID-19.

Contact tracing means identifying people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, informing them of this, and providing them with information on the symptoms to be aware of, what to do if symptoms develop, and if they need to self-isolate or get tested.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I very much welcome the roll out of this contact tracing and commend those involved in making it happen.

“This is another example of the herculean work right across the HSC system to fight back against COVID-19 and keep people safe.

“The battle against the virus is a long-term challenge and contact tracing will have a very important role as part of that.”

On Monday, April 27, the Public Health Agency (PHA) commenced a pilot programme of contact tracing which is helping to inform the planned roll-out of a Northern Ireland-wide contact tracing programme, as requested by the Department of Health.

Dr Jackie Hyland, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Contact tracing on COVID-19 at this stage involves new ways of working given the scale and the fact that new evidence is continually emerging about the illness.

“We have teamed up with colleagues in the university sector and Health and Social Care Trusts to put in place all the necessary logistics.

“We are now rolling out contact tracing further and working with the public to support people who may have been exposed so they can get tested and self-isolate to help prevent spread of infection.

“We are progressing our plans for scaling up the second phase of the Northern Ireland contact tracing service, informed by the learning from the current pilot programme. This work involves testing all aspects of the programme, including processes and resilience.

“From 14 May we have been undertaking contact tracing for all confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

“Testing is also now available to everyone in Northern Ireland aged over five with symptoms, which will form an important part of the contact tracing programme.

“The number of staff currently required changes each day in line with workload, but we have sufficient staff trained and available to manage contact tracing and meet demand.”

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