COVID-19: contact tracing, more effective in curtailing transmission than lock-down – WHO DG
July 20, 2020 – Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus has said contact tracing is one of the key tools for suppressing transmission in indigenous communities and all communities, a more effective approach than the “lock-down’.
Ghebreyesus made this known during his daily briefing on Monday, explaining that no country can get control of its epidemic if it does not know where the virus is.
He said the “contact tracing” module was even more critical to practice as countries are opening up.
“As we have said many times, so-called lockdown measures can help to reduce transmission, but they cannot completely stop it.
“Contact tracing is essential for finding and isolating cases and identifying and quarantining their contacts.
“Mobile applications can support contact tracing, but nothing replaces boots on the ground – trained workers going door-to-door to find cases and contacts, and break the chains of transmission.
“Contact tracing is essential for every country, in every situation. It can prevent individual cases from becoming clusters, and clusters turning into community transmission.
“Even countries with community transmission can make progress by breaking down their epidemics into manageable parts,” Ghebreyesus said .
Reacting rapidly to new cases and clusters will allow countries to continue on the road to economic recovery, while keeping the virus at bay, Ghebreyesus said contact tracing is not the only tool.
He however noted that contact tracing must be part of a comprehensive package. But it is one of the most important.
Ghebreyesus said contact tracing has long been the bedrock of outbreak response, from smallpox to polio, to Ebola and COVID-19.
“One of the lessons from the recent Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was declared over last month, is that contact tracing can be done even in the most difficult circumstances, with security problems.
“When Ebola was discovered in the city of Butembo last year, experts wondered whether it would be possible to bring the outbreak under control.
“But against all odds, the outbreak was stopped in large part because the government, WHO and partners invested heavily in contact tracing, isolating suspected cases and treating those that became sick.
“Over and over again, trained contact tracers working closely with local leaders and communities tracked the virus, sometimes over hundreds of miles in very difficult terrain.
“Ebola and COVID-19 are different viruses but the principle is the same: No matter how bad the situation, there is always hope,” he added.
Ghebreyesus said that with strong leadership, community engagement, and a comprehensive strategy to suppress transmission and save lives, COVID-19 can be stopped.
The WHO DG said the world does not have to wait for a vaccine but must save lives now.
“Make no mistake, we must continue to accelerate vaccine research, while doing more with the tools we have at hand,” Ghebreyesus explained.