PHA urges use of Digital Self Trace as Ministers visit Contact Tracing Centre
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has welcomed Junior Minister Gary Middleton and Health Minister Robin Swann to the Contact Tracing Centre (CTC) in County Hall, Ballymena.
During the visit, both Ministers met many of the contact tracers who have been working to help keep the public safe throughout the pandemic, as well as meeting with Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the PHA, Andrew Dougal, Non-Executive Chair of the Board of the PHA and Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Director of Contact Tracing.
Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the PHA, said: “The public can still play a big part in helping to stop the spread of the virus. In addition to getting the vaccine and following the public health guidelines, they can help by understanding the process if they test positive for COVID-19 – expect to be contacted by the CTC, recognise our number (028 9536 8888) and please answer when we do call, and make sure their close contacts are alerted as quickly as possible through digital self-trace, meaning they will isolate sooner and help to reduce any potential spread of the COVID-19.
“Contact tracing through phone calls from our trained contact tracing staff is still in place. We’re enhancing the service’s workforce every week, adding additional capacity to the operation. But the message to the public is to take advantage of the speed that digital self-trace can provide. It is quick and easy to enter the contact information of your close contacts who will then receive a text message straight away advising them to isolate and book a test. This simple action can quickly help to stop the spread of the virus.
“All of the staff involved in the CTS have been working incredibly hard for over a year now. This vital service has, and continues to, save lives. We are asking the public to work with us, to use digital self-trace, to answer if we call, to be honest about your contacts and where you have been and to get the vaccine as soon as you can. If we all do it, we can all get through it.”
A positive case of COVID-19 is sent a link to the Digital Self Trace website as well as a unique code by text to enable them to enter close contact contacts’ details without waiting for the PHA to be in touch. The contacts entered will then receive a text message straight away advising them to isolate and book a PCR test.
A step-by-step guide on how the system works can be found at www.pha.site/DigitalSelf-Trace
The CTS is currently still phoning positive cases, so if anyone is phoned by (028) 9536 8888 please answer and speak to the contact tracing team. We will leave a voice message where we can.
The CTS is notified of all positive cases in Northern Ireland. The service contacts cases to ask them questions about themselves and their symptoms to help us understand how COVID-19 is spreading and to provide advice on self-isolation to the case and their close contacts. We also ask for information on who they have been in contact with in the two days prior to the onset of symptoms or their positive test result. We ask for as much information as they can provide about the people they have been in contact with and the places they have been during the time when they would have been most likely to spread the virus.
If you have used a rapid lateral flow test (one which returns your result within 30 minutes) and your result is positive, please book a PCR test to confirm the result.
Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Director of the CTS, said: “Whilst our vaccination rates mean that the most vulnerable age groups are largely protected, we are seeing an increase in cases in younger people who haven’t yet had both vaccines. It is vital that we do as much as we can to stop the spread of the infection.
“COVID-19 is still a threat and we need everyone to play their part in helping to stop the virus spreading. It is therefore essential that we remember the key advice to help keep ourselves and those around us safe. Get the vaccine if you’re eligible. Maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering when required and self-isolate and get a PCR test if you display any symptoms of coronavirus. If you are a close contact of a positive case, get a PCR test too and remain in self-isolation regardless of the result.”
For further information on the virus, its symptoms and how and where to book a test, visit www.pha.site/coronavirus
If you have not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, please make arrangements now to get the vaccine – don’t delay. Everyone over 18 is eligible. For further information see https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/
Who is a Close contact?
A close contact could apply to someone who:
- spends significant time in your household;
- is a sexual partner;
- has had face-to-face contact (within 1 metre), including being coughed on or having skin-to-skin physical contact;
- has been within 1 metre of you for one minute;
- has been within 2 metres of you for more than 15 minutes;
- has travelled with you in a vehicle.
- It would not be considered close contact if your interaction took place solely through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen or while one of you was wearing full medical-grade PPE in a health or social care setting.