Infected Belgians ‘seem afraid’ to reveal their contacts to tracers
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Infected Belgians ‘seem afraid’ to reveal their contacts to tracers

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Many people “seem afraid to pass on the names of people they have been in contact with” to the contact tracers, the Federal Public Health Service said during a press conference on Monday.

Contact tracing, in which call centres call hundreds of infected people every day to find out who they have been in contact with recently, started in early May.

However, the Crisis Centre noticed that many infected people who are contacted by the tracers only report one or even zero high-risk contacts. “That is a low number. We suspect that some people might be afraid to report all their contacts to the call centre,” said virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht during a press conference on Monday.

Anyone who has been in close and prolonged contact with an infected patient runs a risk of being infected as well. These so-called “high-risk contacts” will be asked to self-isolate in their homes for two weeks, as a precaution.

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“We want to stress that people should not be afraid to put all their cards on the table about the contacts they have had during the contagious period,” Van Gucht said, adding that the system is completely anonymous, and that they expect about 4 to 5 high-risk contacts per person.

“You will never be reprimanded, punished or judged if, for example, you have had more contacts than were actually permitted. The system will never be used for this purpose,” Van Gucht said. “If we can make this system work optimally, and map as many contacts as possible, then we can control the virus and avoid a second wave,” he added.

On Friday, it was reported that half of the coronavirus patients in Belgium had been contacted. “On Saturday, 408 infected people were called, who reported 225 contacts, who were then also called, in turn,” said Van Gucht.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times