By Economic Times – No excuse for countries to not do contact tracing: WHO MUMBAI: Contact tracing is difficult but there is no excuse for countries not to implement it as an essential part of hunting the virus and bringing down transmission, said Tedros Adhanom Director General of the World Health Organization in response to a query by ET. As few countries like India, USA and Brazil among others see a sharp rise in new cases running in five digits, contact tracing considered to be an essential part of the Covid-19 epidemic management is getting difficult for these countries. However, Adhanom told ET that his team member Mike Ryan the Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Response program of WHO managed to carry out contact tracing in the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo during Ebola.

“If you can do contact tracing in those conditions risking your life, doing contact tracing in a stable and peaceful place should that even be an issue? I am just asking. If there is a single failure… for many of our countries to really not hunt down this virus because we have lame excuse that it is too many and it is too difficult to trace. There is no too many even in war situations, the DG of WHO said. Adding that any country that is saying contact tracing is difficult it is a lame excuse.

Last week Anthony Fauci the infectious disease expert handling the Covid-19 management in the United States of America (USA) said that it was getting increasingly difficult to do contact tracing in the country as cases go up. In India contact tracing has worked in certain states like Kerala that has managed to keep transmission of the virus low, however in large cities that remains a challenge.

Mike Ryan who is also leading the international response of Covid-19 said that in situations where there is intense community transmission and a large number of cases it is hard to get on top of the case isolation alone, never mind contact tracing. “So, countries have to make those choices in that regard. But countries that stuck with contact tracing and isolation and quarantine of contacts, as the number of cases dropped were able to catch up”, Ryan said.

However, those countries that completely gave up had to pick up the process all over again. “The DG has said about the lockdown it was a precious time to prepare. We have seen countries that beefed up capacity of contact tracing, isolation, testing all those things they have done well. Contact tracing, public health surveillance is a key part of the package, Ryan said. “Right now, it is the best possible option and few countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea have shown that it is one way that we can live with the virus”.

Maria Van Kerkhove who is also part of WHO’s health emergency response team told ET that it can be increasingly difficult for countries who are seeing overwhelming cases to trace, test and isolate, however in such a scenario transmission can be kept under control by focusing on certain areas of super spreading events.
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