Belgian eventgoers asked to leave personal data for contact tracers
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Belgian eventgoers asked to leave personal data for contact tracers

Credit: Belga

People going to an event will be asked to give their names and telephone numbers to make it easier for contact tracers to contact them if an infection is detected, said Karine Moykens, chair of the Interfederal Committee Testing & Tracing, during a press conference on Monday.

After the system received a lot of criticism over the past few days and weeks, the tracing of infected people and people they have been in contact with, will be sped up and improved by the end of August, said Moykens. However, quick improvements and adjustments can already be made.

“Case managers will be asked to identify possible infection clusters,” said Moykens. “Those organising events will be asked to keep a list of the people who are attending, including their surnames, first names and telephone numbers,” she added.

If it turns out that an infected person was present at an event, the organiser will be asked to transfer the list of attendees so that these persons can be contacted.

Additionally, contact tracers will be able to ask more about the circumstances in which the contacts took place, to quickly discover clusters. They can arise in places where many people have come together, such as youth camps or weddings, or because an infected person has consecutively been in contact with many different people, Moykens said.

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“From the end of this week, citizens will be able to call the contact tracers themselves, for example if they have missed a call or if they want to report an additional contact they forgot the first time. Until now, that was not possible,” she said.

“Speed is crucial. That is why we are going to shorten the turnaround time. A letter from the health insurance company to the test labs was sent today,” said Moykens. “Now, it takes two days for the results to reach Sciensano, who will then forward it to the call centres. We have asked that laboratories pass on the test results electronically within the hour,” she said.

Over the past month, Belgium’s contact tracers have reached 77% of the infected people, according to Moykens. On Friday 17 July, tracers reached 71% of people, she said. Half of those people passed on their contacts. The others had only had contact with their own families living under the same roof.

Additionally, so-called field agents made about 1,100 home visits to people who were not reachable by phone. About half of them cooperated in the investigation, according to Moykens.

Of the high-risk contacts, 86% have been reached in the past month. Over half of them were reached by phone. Of the others, some people did not want to cooperate, spoke a different language or had tested negative in the meantime.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times