People want to co-operate': Burnet proposes local contact tracing scheme

Burnet Institute

21 August, 2020

A community-based response to COVID-19 for trialling in Melbourne

Burnet’s Know-C19 team has designed a community-based response proposal to contract tracing that will help reduce COVID-19 cases in Melbourne.

Click HERE to read the design concept.

The Age’s Benjamin Preiss spoke with Burnet’s Deputy Director and lead on The Optimise Study, Professor Margaret Hellard AM about why the concept would make a difference.

Below is an extract from The Age article.

People want to co-operate': Institute proposes local contact tracing scheme

Coronavirus infections would be monitored and traced by teams working in local hubs under a proposed new model to deliver a rapid response to outbreaks.

Burnet Institute has put forward a community-based response proposal, which would harness the knowledge of local councils and health and community groups to achieve faster contact tracing and higher levels of cooperation with health requirements.

The model (could) be trialled at particular sites and then implemented in other locations where appropriate.

The research institute has delivered its plan to Victorian health authorities with the intention of improving the response to outbreaks in the community.

It is designed to deliver faster care and support to people who have become infected and their close contacts.

A design concept note says local communities can help combat inaccurate rumours and overcome the stigma of infection that can hamper infection control measures.

“Such community participation matters because unpopular measures risk low adherence,” the concept note says.

“With communities on side, we are far more likely – together – to come up with innovative, tailored solutions that meet the full range of needs of our diverse populations.”

Local contact tracing units have been established in some centres in regional Victoria, but apart from those hubs, contact tracing remains a largely centralised system managed by the Department of Health and Human Services in Melbourne.

The Burnet Institute plan involves using case investigators to quickly call people who have tested positive and interview them about their contacts. Community tracers would then make frequent follow-up phone calls and visits to people who have tested positive where needed.

Burnet Institute Deputy Director Professor Margaret Hellard AM said working with local councils and health services as well as groups that support multicultural communities would help ensure people adhered to requirements from government authorities.

“When people don’t follow a requirement it’s generally because they haven’t understood it, they didn’t know it existed or it wasn’t feasible,” she said. “The vast majority of people want to co-operate.”

Professor Hellard said individuals, including parents on low incomes working insecure jobs, may find it particularly difficult to follow messages to self-isolate and need support.

“If you can’t pay your rent it’s really hard to be told to stay home for two weeks.”

The Burnet Institute model would still be overseen by the state government and Department of Health and Human Services.

The Potential Outcomes

  • Successful partnership based on equal levels of contribution by stakeholders – supporting healthy, engaged, and responsive communities.
  • Key indicators to track improved responsiveness and health outcomes and guides decision-making.
  • The project provides a platform for the introduction and evaluation of new tools: community or home-based testing, screening – if active case finding is needed, information sharing and a means to address questions in real-time, and eventual vaccine delivery.

Find out more about our Know-C19 research.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director (Programs); Adjunct Professor, Monash University, DEPM.




[email protected]

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