Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases

Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Credit: Belga

Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, according to Belga News Agency.

People who may be at risk due to contact with someone who tested positive for the virus will only receive a text message from now on, urging them to get tested.

The current increase in the number of cases has also led to an increase in the workload in the call centres, explained Joris Moonens, spokesperson for the Flemish Agency for Care and Health.

“That’s why it was decided to send a text message in most cases instead of calling the high-risk contacts,” Moonens said.

“If there is still time at the end of the working day, they can be called. But those who have been infected now have priority: they will be called.”

Moonens acknowledged that a text message is less compelling than a phone call.

“It goes without saying that we also prefer to call people, that way, we can give people extra information and answer their questions,” said Moonens.

“Unfortunately, this is no longer possible in the current circumstances.”

Anyone who receives a text message can still call the contact centre with their questions.

The decision was made last Friday to increase the number of employees in the call centres from 400 to 500, in order to cope with the extra work.

Contact tracers themselves are also sounding the alarm. CLBs, who are responsible for contact tracing in schools, say they’re under pressure.

“We have the feeling that we are lagging behind and have no idea whether there are infections in classes,” Inge Van Trimpont, director of the CLBs of GO!, told VRT NWS.

“Does our work still make a difference?”

The number of infections has been rising again for several days in a row.

Belgium’s Federal Minister of Public Health Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit) warned Wednesday night in Terzake that the country was experiencing a fourth wave.

“We will still see a sharp increase in the number of infections and hospital admissions,” said Vandenbroucke.

“But there is no reason to panic, we can also control this wave.”

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