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Corona: Contact tracing increasingly complex - Bundeswehr supports

Tracking contacts, arranging and monitoring quarantine to interrupt infection chains as effectively as possible and slow down the spread of the virus - public health authorities have a central role in managing the corona pandemic. Recently, the staff of the public health office in Bonn were supported in this task by soldiers from the German Armed Forces.

At a joint press event on Thursday, November 12, 2020, Mayor Katja Dörner thanked both the German Armed Forces and the municipal employees: "Over many months, the colleagues in our Health Office have mastered the tasks that have grown considerably during the pandemic with great commitment. However, with the number of infections that have been rising for some time, we have reached the limits of what we can afford in terms of personnel - despite the increase in staff and support from other offices and volunteers. I am therefore very grateful that the Bundeswehr is supporting us in this difficult situation with contact tracing". 

The aid is also an expression of a necessity that is repeatedly demonstrated in this crisis, the Lord Mayor continued: the need to stand together as a society. She therefore appealed to the people of Bonn: "Please continue to adhere to the AHA rules (distance, hygiene, everyday mask) and observe the current contact restrictions. They are important to protect us all".

Lieutenant General Martin Schelleis, who as National Territorial Commander leads the forces of the Bundeswehr for Corona assistance in Germany, explained that the Bundeswehr now provides administrative assistance in around 300 health offices in all 16 German states. A total of more than 6,000 soldiers are tied into Corona-Hilfe. "We will continue to keep our forces ready to provide fast and targeted support in the future. We are aware of the special responsibility and trust of the population," said Schelleis. During his visit to the health office, he was accompanied by the new site elder at the Bonn location, Captain at sea Jürgen Losch.

Tasks of the public health department have grown considerably

In connection with the corona pandemic, the tasks of the public health department have grown considerably. Margarete Heidler, Head of the Health Department, pointed out that the number of employees in the Health Department has therefore been increased from 80 to currently 130 in the course of the pandemic. Additional staff are currently being recruited. 

45 colleagues alone work in shifts in contact tracking. They are supported by 20 soldiers from the Armed Forces Office in Bonn and the Armed Forces Office Command Section, the Army Music Corps Koblenz and the Music Corps of the Bundeswehr Siegburg. The soldiers of the Bundeswehr do not work in shifts. They are deployed from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Identifying contacts of infected persons and ordering quarantine for them - depending on the intensity of contact - is one of the most important tasks of the Office in combating the pandemic. This usually makes it possible to prevent further infections, interrupt the infection chains and thus slow down the spread of the virus.

For each infected person, an average of 17 contact persons must be identified and information and advice provided by telephone. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the staff of the public health department have therefore made contact with a total of around 43,000 people. 

Since March, they have ordered quarantine in 12,300 cases and issued written orders. Their tasks also include accompanying the people by telephone during the quarantine period and cancelling the order for isolation after the period has expired. 

Heidler, head of the health department, thanked the people of Bonn for the good support of the health department during the crisis. "Rest assured that we are handling all procedures with the greatest possible care. But please have understanding and patience if, in view of the massive amount of information and reports reaching the Health Department daily, there may be delays at times or even misunderstandings with feedback. She also advocated that citizens should use the Corona Warning App and keep contact diaries to further speed up the identification of contacts. 

Almost 41,000 consultations conducted on the public telephone

Almost 41,000 counseling sessions have so far been conducted on the public telephone line set up by the health department at the beginning of the crisis. Currently, an average of 250 to 300 a day call the hotline. In addition, the office provides technical background information for the decisions of the crisis team of the city of Bonn and for press work to inform the population of Bonn.

The municipal smear center in Gotenstraße (CDZ), which is operated by the German Red Cross, was already established in March. Doctors from the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians provide support there. In addition, the DRK has been operating the municipal drive-in center on Petra-Kelly-Allee since August. A total of more than 31,000 tests have so far been conducted at both locations, including 11,530 with mobile teams, for example in senior citizens' facilities and with non-mobile persons.

In order to protect particularly sensitive groups of people, the Health Department provides very close support, especially for senior citizens' facilities and hospitals. For example, employees evaluate test concepts of health care facilities such as retirement homes, hospitals or outpatient care services. In addition, a large number of hygiene concepts for events had to be evaluated.

The office is also in regular contact with other offices of the city administration that are also active in combating the pandemic, as well as with health authorities and state authorities. Positive findings must be reported to other health authorities. Data on the spread of the virus are passed on to higher authorities in the country.

Translated with deepl.com (free version)

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  • Giacomo Zucca/Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Foto: Sascha Engst/Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Giacomo Zucca/Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Foto: Sascha Engst/Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Foto: Sascha Engst/Bundesstadt Bonn
  • MEV-Verlag

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