COVID trackers sign off after 15 months of diligent service
29 April 2022
A contact tracing team that helped keep Queensland safe by curbing COVID-19 winds up today.
The QTrace Central Contact Tracing Hub was established more than 15 months ago as part of the state’s pandemic response.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr James Smith said hundreds of contributors from many government agencies made up the hub which was instrumental in keeping Queenslanders safe through contact tracing.
“For the first two years of this pandemic, we focused entirely on stopping COVID-19 from spreading in Queensland,” Dr Smith said.
“The QTrace team has been a crucial cog in that process, delivering a vital contact tracing service.
“They ensured close contacts were quickly quarantined, reducing the risk of community transmission, and took pressure off local public health units.
“QTrace supported the efforts of public health units to keep COVID-19 numbers low until over 90 per cent of the state’s adult population was vaccinated and we could lift restrictions.
“Our contact tracing network prevented an untold number of infections – their work has kept Queenslanders safe.”
Dr Smith said contact tracing efforts were now more focused on outbreaks in high-risk settings including residential aged care facilities and following up cases in which new variants of concern were detected.
“This work is being managed by Queensland’s public health units, meaning QTrace staff can now return to their usual roles,” Dr Smith said.
QTrace was activated on 13 January 2021 and has traced more than 15,000 contacts and followed up more than 10,000 cases.
Throughout the pandemic, the team’s responsibilities expanded to manage large cohorts of close contacts, including issuing quarantine directions, monitoring compliance while in quarantine, and facilitating the release of contacts from quarantine.
In addition to contact tracing, QTrace reviewed and updated case data, including the vaccination status of about 12,000 cases.
The team even provided support to New South Wales Health with contact tracing in late August, when case numbers surged, and outbreaks threatened to breach the border.
Once border restrictions eased in December, QTrace helped about 4,700 fully vaccinated Queenslanders return from declared hotspots to quarantine at home.
Rebecca Walker, a QTrace site commander for eight months, said the team was a mix of health professionals and public servants from other departments who were trained and appointed as contact tracing officers.
“We have been fortunate to have the full support of the Public Service Commission and access to excellent staff with a range of diverse skills,” she said.
“QTrace is supported by experienced contact tracing officers and emergency officers.
“During larger outbreaks, like the Indooroopilly cluster last year, we brought in staff who usually work as veterinarians, records managers, intelligence officers, IT specialists, molecular scientists, policy officers, and analysts.
“It can be an intense but rewarding job. When you’re working to prevent an outbreak, there is a lot of pressure to find close contacts quickly, to alert people to the prospect that they might have a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease.
“You need to be efficient, composed, and detail-oriented. We’re very proud of the work QTrace staff have done to protect Queenslanders.”
A number of QTrace staff were drawn from the Public Service Commission’s Employee Mobilisation Service, which was established at the start of the pandemic to ensure the workforces of lead agencies like Queensland Health could meet increased demand.
The service worked with Queensland Health to source and train 363 public servants to perform critical contact tracing functions.
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