Contact tracing programme likely to run for two years

By Rebecca Black

Contacting tracing to track coronavirus infections is likely to continue in Northern Ireland for the next two years, the First Minister has indicated.

Arlene Foster described contract tracing as "another key component of keeping the virus under control".

She told Stormont's daily media briefing that staff are to be recruited for a period of two years for the programme.

Mrs Foster detailed how over seven days, from May 19-25, 212 cases were contact traced, about 30 per day, by 99 health and social care staff who have been redeployed.

Arlene Foster at today's daily conference.

A contact tracing programme, aimed to identify and alert people who have come into contact with a person infected with coronavirus, was piloted in Northern Ireland from April 27 before being fully rolled out earlier this month.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said "considerable work" was involved.

"That is going to be a crucial part of our recovery and as we work in the absence of having a vaccine, it is really important that we roll this work out because it allows us to lift more restrictions," she said.

Mrs Foster added: "The chief scientific officer referred to the contact tracing piece of work today as the cornerstone of what we're doing now in terms of trying to control the transmission of the virus.

"He also was very clear that the app which is still being developed in different jurisdiction is only a small part of what we're trying to do, it's actually about the manual contact tracing.

"We have a number of people already being traced and I'm very pleased we're the first part of the UK to have contact tracing in place."

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