Human contact tracing underway in France to stop spread of COVID-19

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By Guillaume Petit
A woman visits her GP in France
A woman visits her GP in France   -   Copyright  Euronews

As France's contact tracing app passes the first vote in the lower house of the French parliament, human contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19 is underway.

Over 200 advisors have been recruited to conduct manual contact tracing on behalf of the French social security system. Its mission is to contact people who contracted COVID-19 and inform all those they have been in contact with during the 48 hours before they became symptomatic.

The system was put in place in an attempt to prevent new outbreaks as authorities begin to lift the strict lockdown measures imposed back in March in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Guillaume Prato, Vice-director of CPAM Rhône, the primary health insurance fund, told Euronews time is of the essence when contract tracing.

"We're no longer in a general lockdown, now the goal is to quickly detect people who are at risk of being contaminated and to isolate them, so we isolate everyone who has symptoms and those who have been in contact with people who tested positive and we try to do so as quickly as possible."

Over a thousand calls have been made over the past fifteen days - with an average of three 'contact cases' for each COVID-19 positive case.

General practitioners are at the heart of these forensic investigations. They are tasked with alerting the special unit when a patient develops symptoms.

Dr. Michel Till said that the trust between a patient and their GP is critical for the process to work successfully. "The bond and trust with GPs has existed for a long time, studies have shown that. And I think in situations like these, crisis situations, that's even more true."

France is pushing forward with its contract tracing app, but for now, the tools being used to fight the virus rely on the skills and dedication of human contract tracers. The app will also be voluntary, which could limit its potential long-term effectiveness meaning, at least for now, human resourcefulness is key to overcoming COVID-19.