CMO visits the PHA’s Contact Tracing and Acute Health Protection Service
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has welcomed Professor Sir Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, to Linenhall Street, Belfast to visit one of three new satellite sites established by the agency to further bolster contact tracing, and to meet the team behind the PHA’s Acute Health Protection Service.
The main Contact Tracing Service (CTS) centre in County Hall, Ballymena will now be supported by three additional sites across Northern Ireland – one in Belfast, one in Armagh and one in Derry/Londonderry.
Alongside this, the team in the Acute Health Protection Service are working to ensure all public health measures are implemented in order to help prevent further transmission of infectious disease, and manage many other risks/threats to the health of the population in Northern Ireland.
During the visit, Sir Michael met many of the contact tracers and duty officers who have been working in these teams to help keep the public safe during the current pandemic. Sir Michael said:
“The expansion of the Contact Tracing Service to these three additional sites is another positive step in our ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me again pay tribute to the essential and valuable work that our PHA colleagues and our health and social care staff continue to provide across Northern Ireland.
“These measures will help to ensure our services continue to provide the best care possible in these extremely challenging times.”
Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the PHA, said:
“As the number of positive COVID-19 cases has increased in Northern Ireland, by necessity so too has the capacity of the Contact Tracing Service.
“Contact tracing continues to be a vital tool in the fight against COVID-19; the service is based on a flexible model which enables us to increase the number of tracing hours to meet forecast demand. With a large rise in cases expected over the summer months we worked hard in the build-up to increase the service’s workforce each week, adding additional capacity to the operation. This has also meant increasing our accommodation to meet the needs of our growing workforce.
“The service now operates across four locations in Northern Ireland, and we will keep both our workforce and accommodation needs under review to ensure we can respond flexibly to the needs of the population during the pandemic. Although we have increased in size, our role in supporting people who have tested positive and their contacts remains the same.
“The Acute Health Protection Service operates seven days per week and has a lead role in protecting the population of Northern Ireland from infectious disease and environmental hazards through a range of core functions, and so has played a huge part in the fight against COVID-19. For example, the service includes the provision of timely specialist health protection advice and intervention, surveillance, education, training and research. The acute health protection team are the first point of call for health care professionals, councils, independent sector nursing and residential facilities, emergency services and other key stakeholders regarding all health protection issues.
“The staff involved in delivering the CTS and Acute Health Protection Service have been working incredibly hard for over a year now. These vital services have, and continue to, save lives.
“We are asking the public to work with us – 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. Please 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, follow the advice on what you need to do next from the CTS.”
For further information on the virus, its symptoms and how and where to book a test, visit www.pha.site/coronavirus