Lebanon | News | Engaging communities for contact tracing to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Engaging communities for contact tracing to reduce the spread of COVID-19

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22 June 2020 – COVID-19 spreads from person to person through droplets and contact transmission. Contact tracing is a critical component of comprehensive strategies to control the spread of COVID-19 and involves quick identification of people exposed to confirmed cases and following up with them to ensure rapid testing and quarantine with daily follow-up over 14 days from the last point of exposure. This will help break the chain of COVID-19 transmission by limiting the possibility of exposing other people to infection should they become ill. 

Contact tracing begins with engaging communities and informing them about the disease, with a focus on how to protect individuals and their communities, and how to stop transmission. Contact tracing requires people to:

  • agree to daily monitoring;
  • be ready to report on signs and symptoms;
  • be prepared to go into quarantine for at least 14 days; and
  • be prepared to go into isolation if they become symptomatic.

Engagement with communities and community leaders will help identify potential challenges for contact tracing, such as differences in language, literacy levels, access to food, access to medical care for other illnesses, information, as well as stigma and marginalization. When planning contact tracing for at-risk and vulnerable groups, such as refugees, migrant workers and economically challenged populations, special considerations include access to health care coverage, legal status, identification papers, transportation and other factors.

Emphasizing solidarity, reciprocity, and the common good when communicating about contact tracing will improve collaboration. This, in turn, will contribute to controlling the local spread of COVID-19 and avoidance of the use of more restrictive measures, such as general stay-at-home orders. In addition, it is critical that contact tracing and associated steps, such as quarantine or isolation, are not associated with security measures or legal issues, or other concerns outside the scope of public health, and that contact tracing activities are made available to all communities. This will improve voluntary participation by cases and their contacts.

In Lebanon, contract tracing is a main pillar of the national COVID-19 surveillance system, through field investigation to identify people exposed to contacts of confirmed cases, combined with rapid deployment of health response teams for COVID-19 testing and daily follow-up over phone. Contact tracing and follow up is also done through a mobile application developed by the Ministry of Public Health.