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80 Defence Forces cadets are being trained in Covid-19 contact tracing

20 cadets will be starting the role from today.

The Defence Forces cadets being trained in contact tracing.
The Defence Forces cadets being trained in contact tracing.
Image: Michelle Hennessy via TheJournal.ie

CADETS IN THE Defence Forces are being trained in contact tracing for the coronavirus with 20 cadets starting in the role from today. 

Contact tracing is undertaken after a person has been diagnosed with Covid-19 in an effort to identify close and casual contacts the person may have had while infected. 

Dr Greg Martin, a specialist in public health medicine with the HSE, has been in charge of training cadets in this area.  

“Contact tracing without question is the most important thing we can be doing right now. And the reason for that is it pushes the epidemic curve back so less people get infected, and the dramatic-ness of that epidemic curve gets softened slightly,” he said. 

He said this is important not only because fewer people get sick, but it “creates some space for the acute hospitals to get themselves ready” and prepared for an increase in demand.

“It decreases the peak burden that is going to be placed on the acute hospitals at any point in time,” he said. 

The existing contact tracing teams in Ireland are used to identify people who have been in contact with those diagnosed with measles and other illnesses.

However, these teams have never had to work at the scale they’re currently operating under.

“Last night, I went to the Cadet Academy and started training up 80 cadets in contact tracing. 20 of them are here today for more advanced training, and this afternoon, they will be operationalised and actually start the process of contact tracing today,” Martin said. 

“We are moving this very fast considering the urgency of this situation.”

Process of contact tracing

Contact tracing starts after a patient is diagnosed with Covid-19. Their doctor will inform them of their diagnosis. 

The patient is then asked who they have been in contact with, especially those they have been near after showing symptoms of the coronavirus (cough, fever, shortness of breath). 

The contact tracers then distinguish between close and casual contacts and get in touch with them over the phone. 

These people are giving information and advice on what to do next. 

“[If] it is the case that they have had close contact, they’ll be asked to self isolate or self-quarantine for 14 days, from the last contact with the confirmed case,” he said.

Martin said that for cadets who get asked questions by contacts that should be answered by a medical professional, there is a “system in place” to forward these to an appropriate person.  

 With reporting by Michelle Hennessy. 

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