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Contact tracing: slowing down the virus together

In order to slow down the spread of the virus, it is important to quickly find out who is ill with the coronavirus, and with whom this person has had recent contact. This person can in turn become infected and transmit the virus two days before showing any symptoms. This preventive method. Through contact tracing, together we can prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

Contact tracing involves investigating who a carrier of Covid-19 has been in contact with. If we trace these people quickly, we can inform them that they have been in contact with a carrier of the virus. This way, he/she can pay close attention to personal hygiene and everyone can help to slow down the coronavirus.

This method of contact tracing is not new. It is used worldwide to limit the spread of diseases such as meningitis or measles. Contact investigation in Belgium is a historic collaboration between the Walloon AVIQ, the Services of the United College (COCOM) in Brussels, the Flemish Agency for Care and Health and the Ministry of the German-speaking Community.

Contact tracing is one of the measures we can take together to prevent the further spread of the virus.These basic precautions are we can take together to prevent the further spread of the virus. By applying the basic approaches correctly, you can help ensure that the virus is not transmitted to others:

  • Thoroughly washing hands regularly
  • Keeping a distance of 1.5 metres if possible
  • Limiting physical contacts
  • Staying at home if sick
  • Wearing a face mask in place with lots of people.

Read the frequently asked questions

I have COVID-19 symptoms myself

  1. If you have symptoms such as a fever, coughing or shortness of breath, you may be a carrier of the coronavirus.

    • Stay at home from then on.

    • Call your GP and describe your symptoms. Your doctor will give you the appropriate advice. If the doctor suspects that you have Covid-19, he or she will test you at the hospital or possibly perform a test him or herself. You will also be asked to provide your telephone number at that point.

    • You will then undergo this test so that you and your doctor can be sure of your Covid contamination.

    • Try to make a list of the people you have had contact with over the past few days. Think of the people you met from two days before you had symptoms (e.g. your colleagues, a friend you went for a walk with, your own family members, the postman, etc).

    • Your contact list should preferably contain their name, phone number, address, date of birth and e-mail address.

    • Your GP or the doctor performing the test will notify the competent authorities so that contact tracing can start quickly.

  2. A government employee will call you. It is important that you answer the employee’s questions as fully as possible:

    • He or she will ask you about the list of contacts you drew up.

    • You should give some extra information about yourself in order to be able to assess the situation as concretely as possible: your date of birth, general state of health, profession, contact with people at risk, etc.

This data will be treated confidentially. Thanks to your contribution, your contacts can be notified in good time and they can follow up any symptoms well.

I may have come into contact with someone who is a carrier of Covid-19

Have you come into contact with anyone who might be ill right now? Were you in contact with this person for some time (more than 15 minutes) and up close (within a distance of 1.5 metres)? (For example: a housemate, a colleague sitting next to you in the office, a friend from school). This is known as higher-risk of being infected. What are you requested to do in this case?

  • Self-isolate at home for 14 days.

  • Regularly disinfect surfaces that are often touched, such as handles, taps, tables, and regularly ventilate your house.

  • Cover your nose and mouth (using a face mask, for example).

  • You can go outside in your own garden or on your terrace, and you can empty your own mailbox.

  • It is best not to leave your home. For strictly necessary purchases such as food and medicine, you can go outside if no one else is available to help you purchase these items. Always wear a face mask and avoid contact with others. You must not receive visitors to your home.

  • Call your GP if you get symptoms like a fever or coughing.

  • Are you a care worker?

    • In this case, it is better to stay at home. If your employer explicitly asks you to, you can continue to work if it is absolutely necessary and there are no other solutions. However, you must wear the necessary protective equipment. In this case, strict hygiene and protection conditions must also be observed, which your employer will discuss with you.
    • The staff member of the authorities who contacted you will likely contact you again at regular intervals to monitor the evolution of your situation.

Have you come into contact with people in the supermarket or with a colleague who is not sitting next to you at work? This is known as lower-risk contact. What are you requested to do in this case?

  • Limit your physical contact as much as possible. Meet up with family and friends mainly through online applications.

  • Regularly disinfect surfaces that are often touched, such as handles, taps, tables, and regularly ventilate your house.

  • Keep a sufficient distance for the next 14 days. Pay extra attention to this.

  • Wash your hands very thoroughly and often.

  • Cover your nose and mouth when leaving your home (using a face mask, for example). This means you can go to work or to school.

  • Call your GP and self-isolate if you develop symptoms.

What about my data?

Naturally, your information will be treated in complete confidence. How do we do this? 

  • Your data, and the data of those people with whom you have been in close contact, has been collated and processed in Sciensano’s database, the national public health institute of Belgium.

  • TWe keep this data for 3 reasons:

    1. to be able to track and contact the patients concerned through a contact centre
    2. to provide relevant information to the region’s health, prevention and inspection services in order to minimise the spread of the virus
    3. to enable scientific, statistical and/or policy research, after pseudonymisation or anonymisation of the data.
  • We take the protection of your personal data very seriously. Access to these data is, therefore, limited to:

    1. the contact centre
    2. the region’s health, prevention and inspection services
    3. scientists associated with the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group. Along with the Sciensano technicians who maintain the database, they will treat your data confidentially. All personal data received will be deleted by Sciensano before 9 June 2020. Data intended for scientific research will be kept in a separate environment under a pseudonym for up to 30 years after the patient’s death.
  • The contacts on your list will not hear your name when they are called. You will remain anonymous.

  • The information you provide will at no time be used to verify your compliance with the measures. It will not be shared with the police, judiciary or other inspection bodies.

How will I be contacted?

The government employee may contact you in various ways. This could be done by telephone on 02/214.19.19 or SMS via 8811. Only those phone numbers will be used to contact you. These are the only numbers which will be used.