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The new Delta variant outbreak in south east Queensland has posed a new challenge for our Metro South Health Public Health Unit resulting in a mammoth contact tracing effort more extensive than any so far during the pandemic.
Clinical Director of the Metro South Health Public Health Unit, Dr Kari Jarvinen said the variant has changed the game resulting in more people classified as ‘close contacts’ and they are subject to much stricter regulations.
“As this strain is so contagious, many people who would have normally been classified a casual contact are now subject to mandatory 14 days quarantine which requires more work from our contact tracing and environmental health team - and a greater level of compliance from the community,” Dr Kari Jarvinen said.
“Many people are shocked and angry when receiving our call that they are considered a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case and we understand that, but we have seen from our neighbouring states how quickly this disease can take hold.”
Public Health clinicians are in a race against the clock to contain positive cases, sometimes calling them late at night or early in the morning to ensure they don’t go out into the community and unknowingly transmit the disease.
“While in lockdown, a positive case may have anywhere between five to 100 close contacts depending on their home and work situation.
“Out of lockdown, we can be looking at thousands of close contacts from simply going to the shops, going to school or travelling to a different local government area,” he said.
Following a call or text message from the Public Health team, positive cases can then expect a more detailed call from the dedicated contact tracing team made up of Public Health Nurses and health professionals.
“This call can take up to two hours, ensuring our team has carefully captured every movement during the identified infectious period.”
This is where data downloaded from the Queensland Government Check In App is used to cross check places the case has been, as well as identify close contacts.
“This is why it is so important we be diligent and continue to Check In.
“This information makes it so much easier for our team to track and contact everyone who needs to be in isolation in order to keep our community safe.”
The enormous effort undertaken by these disease detectives across south east Queensland over the past 18 months has successfully contained several outbreaks so far, and the latest Delta outbreak with thousands of close contacts has been their toughest yet.
“It’s a combined effort between the State Government, local Public Health units, our health service and of course everyone in our community doing the right thing to ensure we can continue getting through this pandemic as we have done in the past,” said Dr Jarvinen.