SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam’s regional health board is to cut back on tracing the contacts of people who test positive for coronavirus because of a shortage of capacity, broadcaster NOS said on Friday.
The surge in infections in the region has made it impossible to carry out thorough tracing until more staff can be trained up to do the job, a spokesman told NOS. In Rotterdam too, health board officials are reaching the limits of what they can do, NOS said.
On a national level, the health boards (GGDs) only have sufficient staff to carry out 750 track and trace operations a day, but yesterday there were 600 new cases alone. The organisation is now working to expand its current workforce from 1,800 full-time jobs to 2,300, but it takes three to four weeks to train someone up, NOS said.
In May, the GGD said it expected to be able to deal with 2,400 cases a day by the summer, but that was based on an estimated five hours per source. However, research shows each case takes around 12 hours instead.
NOS said it was unclear why the GGD had assumed five hours per case when the WHO and European Center for Disease Control in March had already recommended allowing 12 hours.
Crucial Contact tracing is seen as one of the main ways of keeping the virus under control and at Thursday evening’s press conference, prime minister Mark Rutte reiterated the importance of getting tested, even with mild symptoms.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge has yet to comment on the claims. Meanwhile, the press conference led to a surge in people ringing up for a test appointment. On a normal evening, 300 people were calling the test centre hotline between 7pm and 8pm, but on Thursday night, 2,000 people did so.
Some 3.5 million people watched the press conference. In the week to Tuesday, just over 100,000 tests were carried out in total, a drop of 10,000 on the previous week.