COVID-19 contact tracing to be scaled up in NI

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By Michael McHugh, PA

Northern Ireland's Covid-19 tracing programme has been designed for the long term, health minister Robin Swann said.

First Minister Arlene Foster last week said people were being recruited for up to two years to help stifle the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Mr Swann said the current telephone-based service would play a "central" role.

He said: "This is a major long-term programme, given the continuing threat from Covid-19 and the potential for local clusters and outbreaks of infection as we move out of the current phase of our response.

"We will be scaling up the current contact tracing provision to include teams recruited directly to staff the operation.

"This will include professionals such as nurses and environmental health officers for contact tracing with lead clinicians and health protection consultants advising on complex situations and local clusters or outbreaks."

Around 30 positive cases a day are being followed up.

Everyone who develops Covid-19 symptoms is urged to book a test without delay.

Mr Swann added: "The programme launched by the Public Health Agency was extended in recent weeks to cover all new cases of infection. The full service is now operational."

Robin Swann and Nichola Mallon, Infrastructure MInister, visiting a COVID-19 testing facility

There will also be a call centre which will be able to provide general information to symptomatic individuals and their contacts on a range of Covid-19 issues.

The minister added: "Digital tools will also be developed to complement the telephone-based contact tracing. Options are under active consideration."

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