Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed the news that a COVID-19 contact tracing pilot is to commence in Belfast but expressed concerns regarding the decision to stop contact tracing in March contrary to the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“Contact tracing is recommended by the WHO for all phases of the COVID-19 crisis and we have still to receive an adequate explanation from the Department of Health as to why tracing ceased as far back as March.
“The message has been clear from the WHO. Test, Trace and isolate, has been the repeated advice by global experts.
“Testing confirms who has COVID-19 but tracing is necessary to identify who have been in contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 so that they can isolate and reduce the transmission of the virus.
“The evidence at the Health Committee confirmed contact tracing ceased here from the 12th March.
“The absence of contact tracing for nearly a month and a half during this crisis makes it all the more difficult for those attempting to begin to recommence it now.
“Environmental Health Officers from all the councils are already trained in contact tracing and this resource could have been used to do tracing throughout the crisis especially given the social distancing and restriction measures had considerably reduced interactions.
“For any system of contact tracing to work, it must function on an all island basis.
“While the pilot which is due to focus on priority groups like healthcare workers and those within care homes and other vulnerable settings, is welcome it must be rolled out to full contact tracing.”