Queensland contact tracing team pulls out after investigating thousands of COVID-19 cases

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Queensland’s specialist COVID-19 contact tracing team will retire today after 15 months of work, tracing over 15,000 contacts and tracking over 10,000 cases.

The QTrace Central Contact Tracing Hub was created on January 13, 2021 as additional support for public health units.

Over 360 people were employed at the hub, working in shifts of around 40 people at a time.

Deputy Chief Health Officer James Smith said contact tracing would continue with public health units, but would focus on outbreaks in high-risk settings, including aged care facilities at the continued case of new variants in the future.

Dr Smith said QTrace had been instrumental in preventing the spread of COVID-19 before borders reopened.

“They ensured that close contacts were quickly quarantined, reducing the risk of community transmission and relieving pressure on local public health units,” Dr Smith said.

“QTrace has supported public health unit efforts to keep COVID-19 numbers low until over 90% of the state’s adult population is vaccinated and we can lift restrictions.

Since its inception, the team’s responsibilities have expanded to manage large cohorts of close contacts, including issuing quarantine instructions, monitoring compliance during quarantine, and facilitating the release of contacts from quarantine.

QTrace also provided support to New South Wales Health when the number of cases peaked and threatened to cross the border into Queensland.

Vets and computer scientists among the contact tracing team

When border restrictions eased, the team helped around 4,700 fully vaccinated Queenslanders return from declared hotspots and quarantine at home.

Rebecca Walker, commander of the QTrace site for eight months, said the team was made up of medical professionals and officials from other government departments.

Sue O’Connor and Alicia Gambrill, two members of the QTrace Contact Tracing team.(Provided by: Queensland Health)

“During larger outbreaks, like the Indooroopilly cluster last year, we have brought in staff who typically work as veterinarians, case managers, intelligence officers, IT specialists, molecular scientists, policy makers and analysts,” Walker said.

“It can be intense but rewarding work.

“When you’re working to prevent an outbreak, there’s a lot of pressure to quickly find close contacts, to alert people to the prospect that they might have a highly contagious and life-threatening disease.

“You must be efficient, calm and detail-oriented. We are very proud of the work QTrace staff have done to protect the people of Queensland.”

There have been 857 COVID-related deaths in Queensland since the pandemic began.

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