Contact tracing: Flemish corona detectives 'hopefully' ready by 11 May

Contact tracing: Flemish corona detectives 'hopefully' ready by 11 May
Credit: Belga

The recruitment of the 1,200 corona detectives, which have to help in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19), in Flanders has been delayed, according to Flemish Minister for Welfare Wouter Beke.

Last week, the authorities announced that they would hire so-called “corona detectives,” who will be set to work to trace the people who have been in contact with confirmed or suspected patients with the coronavirus.

The people identified by the contact tracers will be tested for the virus and those who test positive will be quarantined for two weeks. Contact tracing will become an important part of the Belgian exit strategy to gradually lift the coronavirus lockdown measures.

The team of contact tracers would be split up between the regions, with 200 set to be put to work on Brussels, 600 in Wallonia and 1,200 in Flanders.

However, the Flemish recruitment process has been delayed as "a number of formalities" were not completed in the search for an external partner to help recruit the contact tracers, according to Beke. The Inspectorate of Finance said that the whole procedure has to be repeated, reports De Standaard. "We have put out a new tender, I am hoping to appoint an external partner this week," Beke confirmed on Radio 1 on Wednesday.

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Contact tracing should start already in May, as soon as possible,” professor and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht told The Brussels Times last week. The initial aim was to have the system operational by 4 May, which is when the first steps will be taken to relax the measures, with the restart of work in many non-essential businesses.

"We have not been idle," said Beke. "The scripts and profiles have been written out, the training courses for the people are ready. We are about to consult with the federal government and other regions to develop a common digital platform," he added.

While the entire system will not be fully operational by 4 May, the theoretical model for contact detection will be able to run trials, including on the digital platform. "Hopefully, we will be ready by 11 May, for the next phase," Beke said.

However, whether or not the deadline of 11 May will be met does not only depend on the contact tracers, but on the testing capacity as well, reports De Tijd."It must, of course, be possible to test those people who have been traced," said Beke. "There must be enough doctors to do that, there must be enough material," he added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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