Coronavirus: NI contact tracing scheme to be scaled up

US Air Force Tech Sgt Jordan Rigor, 48th Medical Support Squadron conducting COVID-19 testing at Royal Air Force Feltwell, Britain

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Everyone over the age of five with symptoms of Covid-19 is now eligible for testing.

Nurses and environmental health officers will be among those directly recruited to staff NI’s contact tracing operation, Robin Swann has said.

The health minister said the current provision will be scaled up to include directly recruited teams.

NI was the first of the four UK administrations to roll out a coronavirus contact tracing programme.

On Sunday, one more coronavirus-related death was reported by NI’s Department of Health.

That brought its total, of mainly hospital deaths, to 523.

“We will be scaling up the current contact tracing provision to include teams recruited directly to staff the operation,” Mr Swann said.

“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.

“The work will be supported through the deployment of trained volunteers when required.”

On Sunday, First Minister Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland could have contact tracing for “quite some time, possibly even up to two years”.

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Health Minister Robin Swann said the current contact tracing provision will be scaled up

She said contact tracing was vital to “make sure that we know where the virus is in our community”.

Although there is currently no mobile app, Mrs Foster said the current manual system was working well.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing aims to identify and alert people who have come into contact with a person infected with coronavirus.

It is a crucial component of the “test, trace and isolate” strategy, credited with helping to lift restrictions in other countries.

Someone who has been infected is asked to list all the people they’ve recently been in prolonged contact with.

Those people will then be tracked down by phone, before potentially being asked to self-isolate and, in some cases, offered a test for the virus.

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Arlene Foster said contact tracing was vital

Mr Swann said there would also be a “call centre element to this service which will be able to provide general information to symptomatic individuals and their contacts on a range of Covid-19 issues”.

“Digital tools will also be developed to complement the telephone-based contact tracing. Options are under active consideration,” he added.

Everyone over the age of five with symptoms of Covid-19 is now eligible for testing.

Testing can be booked directly on the NHS website or by ringing 119.

People with symptoms can be tested at one of the four drive through test centres in Belfast, Londonderry, Craigavon, or Enniskillen, or via a postal self-test kit which will be dispatched to their home.

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