What exactly is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is a method of investigating with whom someone has been in contact if that person turns out to be a carrier of the coronavirus, or in some cases is very likely to be a carrier of the virus. If we can trace these people quickly, we can inform them that they may also be carriers of the virus and give them the right advice.
Contact tracing is a method used worldwide to limit the spread of diseases and has already been used for measles, for example. In Belgium, contact investigation is a collaboration between the Walloon AVIQ, the Services of the United College (COCOM) in Brussels, the Flemish Agency for Care and Health and the Ministry of the German-speaking Community.
Why are we doing contact tracing now?
Contact tracing is only feasible and useful when the number of infections is limited. During the peak of the number of infections, it was impossible to contact every ill person and ask who he or she had been in contact with. It will help us to identify a second wave of the virus in good time and to be able to intervene in order to slow down its spread.
Am I obliged to cooperate with the contact tracing?
Your contribution can help yourself and others. Thanks to your help, others can be informed and advised in good time. The more contacts we can trace in time, the smaller the risk of a new wave of infections. This is how we can avoid strict new measures together. Cooperation is therefore not compulsory, but is a form of solidarity and a civic duty.
What contacts will be traced?
If you yourself are ill or show symptoms, it is important to know your contacts from 2 days before your first symptoms to the time you begin self-isolating at home.
Is my data sufficiently protected in this contact follow-up?
Yes, the information will be treated in complete confidence. The information you provide will only be used to give the necessary advice to your contacts. This is how you can help slow down the virus. Only the authorised service will have access to your contact list. Not your work, family, school, police, other government services, etc.
If you are infected with Covid-19 and you stay or are in regular contact with a community such as a residential and care centre, an institution for the disabled, school, … then the reference doctor will be contacted. The contacts on your list will not hear your name when they are called. You will remain anonymous. The person who calls your contacts is sworn to secrecy. Your data will be stored in a secure government database.
The information you provide will at no time be used to verify your compliance with the measures. It will not be shared with the police, judiciary or other inspection bodies.
How is the government notified?
If you are ill, you should contact your GP. Your GP will prescribe a test in case of suspicion and your data will automatically be transferred to the secure database. The call centre will only be notified if your test was positive. In exceptional cases, the doctor may also pass on your details immediately to the call centre in order to speed up contact tracing. This only applies to strongly suspected Covid-19 cases.
In any case, your GP will inform you of your results, positive or negative.
When does contact tracing start?
If you go to your GP and there is a suspicion of Covid-19, the doctor will take a test. You must then remain isolated at home. If you are tested for the coronavirus, the government will wait for the result before contacting you. If the result of your test proves to be positive, you and your contacts can expect a phone call or a visit from a government employee. From then on, contact tracing begins. Did you test negative? In that case, no contact tracing will start, unless your GP thinks the test result was wrong based on your clinical picture. Your GP can then still decide to initiate contact tracing.
Does the GP have a strong suspicion that you are Covid-positive? Then they will not wait for the test result and start the contact tracing as soon as possible.
What if I can't list everyone?
It’s inherent to contact tracing that you cannot list everyone. This is okay. However, try to list as many contacts as possible so that we can give the right advice to all possible contacts.
As a result, it remains extremely important that you continue to follow the basic approaches:
- Stay at home if you are ill
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly
- Keep a 1.5-metre distance from other people
- Limit your physical social contact as far as possible. Meet up with family and friends mainly through online applications.
Can I go to work if I have been in contact with a Covid-19 patient?
If you are a high-risk contact, which means that you have been in close contact with someone for a long time, for example with a colleague sitting next to you, you must spend 14 days in isolation at home. This means you cannot go to work for 14 days. If you can work from home, you can continue doing so. If you cannot work from home, you will have to inform your employer that you will be absent for 14 days. If you work in an essential profession (e.g. as a nurse), it may be exceptional for you to be asked to work if this is necessary to ensure continuity of care. In doing so, strict conditions must be respected, which your employer will discuss with you.
If you are a low-risk contact, which means that you have had very brief contact with, for example, a colleague who is not sitting next to you at work, then you do not need to go into isolation, but you do need to follow the basic approaches carefully. It is therefore best to work from home as far as possible. Is this not possible? Then you can go to work, but you must cover your nose and mouth with, for example, a face mask.
Will I be tested if I am a contact of someone who now turns out to be ill?
Are you a low-risk contact with no symptoms? Then you will not be tested. Are you getting symptoms anyway? Then call your GP. They will determine whether a laboratory test is necessary.
Are you a high-risk contact? If you have a lot of professional contact with people in the at-risk group (e.g. people older than 65 years), you will be tested at the end of the 14 days you have to stay at home. If you have symptoms yourself, you will be tested sooner.
I have had contact with a high-risk contact. Am I now a high-risk contact too?
No, you are a high-risk contact if you have been in contact with someone who is ill.
What should I do if I have to go into home isolation when I am ill myself?
Call your GP. He or she will give the necessary advice and ask for your telephone number.
You must stay at home for at least 7 days. If your symptoms last longer, then you must stay at home for longer.
You must not leave your home. You must not go shopping or go for a walk. You can sit in your own garden or on your own terrace. You can also empty your mailbox. You can have your groceries delivered or you can ask someone in your area to do this for you temporarily.
You must avoid contact with people in the at-risk group.
You must isolate yourself as much as possible from your housemates. This means you must eat and sleep separately.
Regularly ventilate the room in which you often stay.
What should I do if I have to go into home isolation when I am a high-risk contact?
You must stay home for 14 days.
You may only leave your home for strictly necessary purchases such as food and medicines. Always wear a face mask and avoid contact with others. You must not receive visitors at home.
You can go outside for necessary purchases such as food and medicines.
Wear a face mask (for tips, you can take a look at: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/facemask/
Call your GP as soon as you get symptoms.
Healthcare providers can stay at work if necessary for the service, while wearing protective equipment. In doing so, strict conditions must be respected, which your employer will run through with you.