Poorer response to contact tracers as people become ‘fed up’ of pandemic
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Contact tracers are finding a poorer response to requests for people to test themselves or self isolate as the public becomes “fed up” of the Covid-19 pandemic, councillors in Gwynedd have been told.
The Test, Trace and Protect (TTP) service is responsible for trying to limit the spread of the virus by getting in touch with those identified as a close contact of anyone testing positive for Coronavirus.
While it is no longer a requisite for any identified contacts to automatically self-isolate if double jabbed and showing no symptoms, they are still urged to arrange a PCR test.
In the north the six local authorities, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Public Health Wales are working with Welsh Government to deliver the programme.
But a meeting of Gwynedd Council’s cabinet meeting was told that contact tracers have noted a shift in general response as more people are vaccinated and Covid fatigue continues to play a part.
It came amid a similar warning by Wrexham Council this week, which urged the public to answer phone calls from contact tracers and follow the advice given amid claims that a small number had ignored calls from TTP teams attempting to get in touch.
It was also claimed by Wrexham Council that a number of people testing positive had misunderstood changes to isolation rules, and wrongly thought they didn’t have to isolate because they were vaccinated.
Gwynedd’s head of the regulatory department, Dafydd Williams, told the authority’s cabinet members: “At the peak there were over 100 members of staff, funded by Welsh Government of course, facing some substantial challenges that have changed as the pandemic has evolved over the past 18 months.
“At the beginning we were training staff, getting people in place and our residents on the whole welcomed that contact because they felt that we were protecting them.
“By now of course, our communities are fed up of the pandemic and the response to those doing the tracing isn’t as positive and people don’t want the call and so on.
“So things have changed, the guidelines have changed as matters develop and at the moment we see the number of cases is very high, so the number of contacts for every case is very high.
“But what’s encouraging is, because of the vaccination programme, those becoming very ill and having to go to hospital because of the virus is a lower percentage, and even with the number of cases being higher than ever the number of people going to hospital is low.
“There’s still a lot of work to do and there are many people in our communities still unvaccinated, the vaccine doesn’t protect everyone and some people do get very ill, so there’s still work to do.
“Funding for the tracing service is in place until at least the end of March next year and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Adding that environmental health officers continued to have a major role, he confirmed there were plans to train up more officers to work within the service.
The authority’s head of finance, Dafydd L Edwards, concluded there was an intention to report to the cabinet over the coming months in terms of growing the capacity of the environmental and public protection services over the coming months.
Anyone that develops Covid-19 symptoms at any point, no matter how mild and regardless of age or vaccine status, should immediately self-isolate and arrange a Covid-19 PCR test.