As we conclude the second year of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO / Europe has collected and shared best practices in contact tracing in countries in the WHO European Region. It aims to document a variety of approaches based on several factors, including capacity, methodology, tools, community engagement and culture.
Dr Richard Pebody, who leads the high-risk pathogens team at WHO / Europe, commented: “We know that contact tracing is an effective public health measure to fight COVID-19, but experience has shown that it can be difficult for countries to establish a well-functioning contact tracing mechanism that can cope with widespread community transmission. We have often seen small teams of contact tracers dealing with a large number of COVID-19 cases and contacts. “
Contact tracing pays off
Contact tracing has never been conducted on such a scale as during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experience and evidence show that when applied consistently, contact tracing can help break the chains of transmission of infection and be a tool in keeping societies open.
Setting up comprehensive contact tracing systems can be complex and resource intensive. Yet, if done appropriately, the investment pays off against the potential costs of full or partial blockages, the loss of productivity suffered by disease, and the burden on health systems.
The case studies collected by WHO / Europe provide a unique learning opportunity for countries and WHO, and will help shape future guidelines and recommendations.
“These case studies highlight some of the strategies used by countries and the importance of having a flexible and well-trained contact tracing workforce, ideally comprised of locally recruited contact tracers. We know that high quality community engagement increases the perception of credibility and trust – two prerequisites for successful contact tracing and meeting quarantine requirements, ”concluded Dr Pebody.
Search for contacts in the country
The first case studies in Kosovo * and Kyrgyzstan involved interviews with key contact tracing staff at national, regional and local levels, as well as with WHO focal points.
In Kosovo * and Kyrgyzstan, contact tracing has been one of the key strategies used by national health authorities to interrupt chains of transmission and reduce morbidity and mortality, as recommended by the WHO.
Their contact tracing infrastructure for COVID-19 built on existing public health experience and expertise, although the number of cases rapidly increasing, there was a need to train additional staff to expand the hand. -work of contact tracing and step up operations.
Additional contact tracing case studies are planned with other countries in the WHO European Region to broaden the scope of shared experiences and further strengthen this important public health resource.
* All references to Kosovo should be understood in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).