Authorities have turned to students, trainees and retired health workers asking them to help with contact tracing as the numbers of COVID-19 cases reach record highs.

And they have brought in specialised help for schools, to avoid having to self isolate large numbers when students and teachers contract the virus.

But despite these efforts, Times of Malta is informed contact tracing is lagging, with delays of up to a week being reported.

It comes as the numbers of new cases soar. A total of 122 new cases were registered overnight, the highest number since the virus first reached Malta in March. 

Readers who spoke on the condition of anonymity described how, despite being told they were in contact with a positive case, either through their employer or by the individuals themselves, the health authorities had yet to get in touch.

Health sources have told Times of Malta the contact tracers are now not only struggling to keep up with the growing numbers but are now also experiencing burn out and are exhausted after months of non-stop work.

"They do feel discouraged at times, especially when people are difficult and refuse to cooperate," one said.

Health authorities are now trying to beef up contact tracing teams by issuing call to those who have a background in health, be it students, trainees or retired professionals.

Asked about the delays, public health chief Charmaine Gauci told Times of Malta that more people were being brought in to speed up the contract tracing process.

Meanwhile, to make the process more efficient, the health authorities have also brought in specialised contact tracers, who are dealing with cases involving educators and students.

"These contact tracers, who have a background in safety and education are helping us by identifying the specific risks of each case in schools. That way, we can better understand what the situation is on a case-by-case basis and avoid having to self-isolate large groups when this is unnecessary," Gauci said.

She said they map out classrooms and schools to establish potential contacts, a process they carry out alongside the usual efforts that involve patients themselves identifying anyone they might have been in contact with.

Gauci has repeatedly urged people who have come in contact with COVID-19 cases to isolate immediately, even if they have yet to be contacted by the health authorities.



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