Workers refusing to pass on track and trace details in case they are blamed for colleagues having to self isolate

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There are fears that some people in Carmarthenshire with Covid-19 are refusing to provide test and trace information in order to protect work colleagues from having to self isolate.

Carmarthenshire Council has called on people to be honest with the local Test, Trace and Protect team once they receive notification of a positive coronavirus test, saying that obtaining recent contact details from people with the virus is “critical” to reducing its spread across the county.

The infection rate in Carmarthenshire is currently 309.9 per 100,000 population. That is down considerably compared with what it was before the current Alert Level 4 restrictions were implemented before Christmas, but it is still considerably higher than it was in the autumn.

There were 86 new cases confirmed in the county in the latest data published on Thursday, with around a fifth of people being tested for coronavirus returning a positive test.

To try to combat the number of new cases, many of the council’s staff have temporarily left their normal day jobs to boost the ongoing response to the pandemic. Up to 50 of those staff are working seven days a week to handle demand in the Test, Trace and Protect team, who are immediately alerted to new positive cases anywhere in the county.

They then get in touch with those who have tested positive and try to obtain relevant information regarding their recent contacts, something which the council admitted can be “challenging”.

“The majority of people we call are thankful for our help and advice but there are a minority of people that are reluctant to pass on close contact details,” said Hywel Thomas, who has moved to the team from his usual role as Actif community co-ordinator.

“This maybe for a number of reasons such as not wishing to divulge work contacts in fear of their colleagues having to isolate and losing their jobs. However, once we explain the process they are more than happy to open up to us.

“We are not here to judge but to take down the facts, share advice to keep everyone safe and ensure that the person takes the necessary measures to stop the spread. Having worked in this environment and speaking to people who are really struggling, it has certainly opened my eyes to how dangerous and nasty this virus can be.”

People who test positive are also being reminded that details they provide about their contacts and recent whereabouts are confidential.

There is also a recognition, or a fear, that a degree of fatigue over the virus has set in and that people are reluctant to self-isolate or pass on details of others who will then need to self-isolate.

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Adele Lodwig, infection control manager for Covid-19 at Carmarthenshire Council, who has been redeployed from the housing options team, said: “We are adapting and changing daily. We bring more staff in as and when there is an increase of cases as we cannot easily predict how many positive cases we will have to deal with each day. It requires a great deal of flexibility and we urge our staff to meet the demand.

“Sometimes there is only very limited contacts around an individual, but often it can mean a large number of people have to be contacted and asked to self-isolate, for example children in schools when they were open.

“We absolutely rely on people’s honesty to trace anyone who they may have come in to contact with – we understand that people may not want to tell us where they’ve been, but this information is vital if we are to protect others, particularly the most vulnerable, from becoming ill.

“This is always our overriding priority and the information we are provided with is confidential. We are finding that ‘Covid fatigue’ has set in so some people don’t want to isolate. It’s totally understandable, but isolating is critical to containing the spread. The vaccine rollout is a major step forward in protecting Carmarthenshire residents, but will only work with a robust track and trace service operating until enough of our community is vaccinated.”

Hywel Dda University Health Board, which manages healthcare in Carmarthenshire as well as in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, revealed this week that, up to Sunday (January 10), 12,686 first doses of a coronavirus vaccine had been administered to people across the region.

Thousands more of both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines have also been delivered to the area, which were set to be offered at six GP practices in Carmarthenshire this week along with four in Ceredigion and four in Pembrokeshire, as well as to health and care staff at mass vaccination centres in Carmarthen and Cardigan.



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