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Coronavirus: contact tracers now unable to cope in parts of Switzerland

© Anton Anton |

In parts of Switzerland contact tracers can no longer cope with the rising numbers of cases, according the newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

Contact tracers have the task of identifying who has been in contact with people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, contacting those people and requesting they test and self isolate in order to break chains of infection.

The tracing team working for the canton of Zurich is so overloaded it is delegating its work to people testing positive, according to the newspaper.

Lina Lanz, a spokeswoman for Zurich’s health department, said that index cases are being asked to inform contacts and actively participate in the process.

The SonntagsZeitung reports of several cases where contact tracing has failed and people who were potentially infected were not alerted.

Nicola Low, an epidemiologist in Bern, told the newspaper that more effective contact tracing is required so that chains of infection can be broken. One measure of how effective contact tracing is is the percentage of those testing positive who are already in quarantine. This should be 80% according to Low.

However, according to the SonntagsZeitung, in many cantons, only 10% to 20% of newly detected cases were already in quarantine at the time of testing positive.

On Monday, the canton of Bern announced that it was considering calling on the army to help with contact tracing, reported RTS. We have expanded our team to 80 tracers. If we need to double this team every time case numbers double, the recruitment and logistical challenges we face become clear, said Pierre Alain Schnegg, Bern’s health chief.

Marcel Tanner, an epidemiologist and member of the federal Covid task force, admitted that contact tracing is reaching its limits in some places. But he warns against giving up. “We must not give up contact tracing under any circumstances”, said Tanner. Contact tracing is still valuable even when it isn’t completely effective, he said.

SwissCovid, Switzerland’s contact tracing app has met with resistance. A group, which included a member of Switzerland’s parliament, organised a referendum to ban the app. Others have been active on social media voicing concerns about the privacy risks associated with it despite the app makers sharing the source code and explaining the app’s privacy protection. The privacy risks of being on social media seem to have been overlooked by those railing against it on these platforms. Despite resistance, 2.4 million have downloaded the app and 1.67 million were running it on 13 October 2020.

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About Le News
Le News
The newspaper Le News is a free, quality, local English language newspaper launched on 31 October 2013. Le News fills a gap in local Swiss media for the numerous English-speakers living and visiting Switzerland. In late January 2015 we decided to put our print medium on hold and focus on our digital media presence.
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