COVID19: Cyprus fighting the virus through contact tracing

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Cyprus is taking the COVID-19 fight to the virus by undertaking the arduous task of contact tracing those infected to contain the outbreak, a practice some other countries have abandoned.

Contact tracing is a difficult and continuous task, said member of the Epidemiological Monitoring Unit of the Health Ministry  Valentinos Silvestros, noting that so far thousands of contacts have been tested.

He told CNA that the Unit began work from the moment the first coronavirus cases in Cyprus were announced on March 9 and will continue until measures are lifted.

“We trace the contacts of confirmed cases and look for possible new cases. We examine the contacts of each case. If a positive case works in a supermarket or an office, their contacts are a lot more.”

“It is a very long and painstaking procedure because you have to talk to the patient. As soon as you announce the positive result, you have to start working fast and locate the case’s contacts and contain them so that there is no further exposure to the community,” Silvestros added.

From the 772 confirmed cases so far, each had an average of around 3-4 contacts to trace and test.

“We locate the contacts that might have been infected, we restrict them and make sure the virus is not spread to others.”

Before the pandemic, the unit had five people, it has been reinforced with more staff to help tracing become effective.

“There are 15 people working in the contact tracing unit but if the need arises, this number can go up to 30,” Silvestros told CNA.

He said that usually those who have contracted the virus cooperate, but there have been instances where they refused to reveal their contacts.

“It is highly significant to locate the contacts of a confirmed case and restrict them. Every person is different.

We are trying to persuade them of the seriousness of the situation. Most of them cooperate. Those that don`t, we have had to find different ways to persuade them. In some cases, we had to cite the legal framework which covers us.”

Cyprus has been commended by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for its work, as not all countries carry out contact tracing.

“Our colleagues from the ECDC say we are carrying out excellent work and dedicate a lot of time and resources on carrying out the procedure. We have quality data on the cases and contacts. It is very hard for other countries to carry out contact tracing.”

“When there are thousands of cases and there is no time or resources, other countries cannot do that. We have the luxury however to do this because the number of our confirmed cases are low and there is a political will to do so.”