Contact tracers in Ireland have been working tirelessly since the pandemic began to make calls to individuals who are sick and trace possible public areas of exposure. Eamonn Gormley, a tracer working at the University College of Dublin described the extremely disheartening work that they do to the media recently, claiming that the sick individuals they talk to often sound worried about their health and fear for their loved ones that they may have infected.
“In a lot of cases people were suffering from extreme physical distress, one person I talked to collapsed on the floor and we could hear them gasp for air.”
Gormely claims that calls like that are rather rare, but still stick with you. Contact tracers, in general, have the responsibility of notifying individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 and getting as much information from them as possible in regards to what public spaces they entered within the time-frame of infection.
In Ireland specifically, many infected people are revealing a multitude of locations they were in close contact with others in, and it’s raising some major concerns. Locations such as pubs, homes, schools, salons, and planes have all been listed recently from Irish individuals who are currently suffering from the coronavirus.
Ireland saw a steady decrease in case numbers throughout the months of June and July, however, in August numbers began to rise by the hundreds. Within the past month the country saw 2,077 new cases appear; in total they’ve recorded around 31,800 infections and 1,800 deaths. The biggest concern at the moment, however, is the number of individuals that infected patients are claiming to have been around prior to being tested.
According to UCD’s tracing center, the average number of individuals a Covid-19 patient has claimed to be in close contact with is 10. Some patients have disclosed they’ve been around 25, 30, even 50 other people before receiving their results. The largest number so far has been 83 close contacts, according to Gormely.
Ireland is joining a growing list of European countries all experiencing major spikes in case numbers. Philip Nolan, the chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modeling Advisory Group, recently claimed that he’s greatly concerned over the lack of action in response to these spikes.
“Case numbers appear to be growing exponentially and are likely to double every 10 to 14 days if every one of us does not immediately act to break chains of transmission of the virus.”
Ireland has around 280 active contact tracers with hundreds more on standby. Over 1,000 calls are made every single day from centers located all throughout the country. In one center, the campus has 70 tracers spread out in three rooms. 20 of the tracers in that particular center are environmental health officials and the rest are volunteers.
Tracers have a very specific code of conduct as well that bars them from expressing any judgement to those who have broken any quarantine rules of health and safety procedures. The goal is not to reprimand, but to gather as much information as possible so that individuals who need to quarantine, do. With the help of a new app as well, tracing has become even easier for these tracers as they continue to navigate this unpredictable pandemic.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.