Coronavirus: COVID-19 contact tracing, how it works explained

A woman adjusts her mask while she waits in line as the city's public health unit holds a walk-in clinic testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Montreal. (Reuters)

What is contact tracing, and how does it work with COVID-19?

The goal of contact tracing is to alert people who may have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus and prevent them from spreading it to others. Health experts say contact tracing is key to containing the virus and allowing places to reopen more safely.

But the process isn’t easy.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

After a person tests positive for the virus, a contact tracer would get in touch with the person and attempt to determine where they have been and who they were around.

The focus is on close contacts, or people who were within 6 feet of the infected person for at least 10 minutes or so. Those people would then be asked to self-isolate, monitor themselves for symptoms and get tested if needed.

For those showing symptoms, the tracing process would start all over again.

Read also: CDC updates COVID-19 symptoms list, includes runny nose, diarrhea

Contact tracing is done in a variety of ways around the world. But a common issue is that determining who a person has been around can get harder as gatherings with friends and family resume, and as bars, restaurants and other places start reopening.

Health officials could also become overwhelmed with cases. In the US for example, local health departments may rely on automated texts to alert people who may have been exposed to an infected person. Health officials prefer to call people if possible because it can help build trust. But some people never return calls or texts.

There’s also pressure to act quickly. Ideally, most of a person’s contacts would be alerted within a day.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app

Read more:

Coronavirus toll at 569,135, while number of cases reach 12,927,000: Latest tally

Coronavirus crisis may get ‘worse and worse and worse’: WHO

Broken heart syndrome on the rise during COVID-19, research finds

SHOW MORE
Last Update: Tuesday, 14 July 2020 KSA 10:45 - GMT 07:45
Top