GGD: Coronavirus scaling up faster than contact investigators can handle
The growing number of coronavirus infections, including another 2,250 reported on Tuesday, is rising at a rate faster than the GGD municipal health services can increase the capacity of its source and contact tracing system, said Sjaak de Gouw, Director of Public Health at the Hollands Midden branch of the GGD. "The end is not yet in sight, and the virus is scaling up faster than the fastest scaling plan," he said during a committee meeting in Parliament on Tuesday.
RIVM leader Jaap van Dissel said that, "we are now seeing the second wave" of viral infections, with over 13 thousand new infections reported last week in the Netherlands. He repeated statements he made in the past that as the situation worsens, the prospect of stricter national measures will become more likely. Even though infections do not seem to be rising as quickly as in March, there is "a clear increase which requires action in the longer term."
Source and contact tracing has been identified by the Health Ministry as critically important to getting the spread of the virus back in check. A shortage of staff and problems with the recruitment process has led many of the 25 GGD branches to limit their source investigations to only focus on direct contact with high-risk people, like the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, De Gouw said.
Another is the ability to test as many people for the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus as necessary. "Every day we receive about 38,000 to 39,000 requests for a test," De Gouw said. For now, the GGD is only able to handle about 29 thousand tests per day, a figure which Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said could reach 50 thousand by the end of October. Last week, the GGD service handled about 27,500 tests per day.
On Monday, those working in primary, secondary and special education were given priority access to testing, with 6,736 people requesting a priority test in the first day the new hotline was open. The GGD had to increase its phone bank capacity by 400 operators to handle the influx.