It was a major complaint from a few local authorities last week: we are ready to take over the flawed contact investigation, but we cannot be allowed by Minister of Welfare Wouter Beke (CD&V) and his administration.
That should be over now because there is an agreement on how local governments can cooperate. In addition, local authorities also have access to individual data on infected people.
Since Friday, local authorities have already had data at the district level about the infections in their city or municipality – if any – via the Care Atlas. However, in order to do even more with this data, the individual data will also be made available.
The individual data will be made accessible through a medical expert who is affiliated with the care council of the primary care area to which the city or municipality concerned falls. These 60 zones in Flanders and Brussels must better coordinate the work of local authorities and care and social workers. The organization of primary care per work area is in the hands of a non-profit organization, a so-called care council, which was set up for this purpose.
The medical experts who have to make the individual data of corona patients accessible must still be appointed in the various care councils. Minister Beke points out that this way of working will guarantee that professional secrecy and patient rights are respected.
And then there are the three ways in which local initiatives and the central system of contact tracing can reinforce each other.
The first way concerns the follow-up of the measures. Local governments focus on raising awareness and enforcing the corona measures, the importance of cooperating with contact tracing and following quarantine rules, according to the Beke cabinet.
But local governments can do more. They are allowed to play a role in outbreak control themselves, and thereby cooperate with the central contact investigation – especially to determine whether there are certain clusters or sources of infection.
Most importantly, local authorities can also set up an autonomous contact detection system themselves. “This is linked to a number of specific conditions with regard to confidentiality, liability and the guarantee of entering data into the central system,” says the cabinet of Wouter Beke.
The entire operation of this system will be evaluated after one month.
Moreover, Beke reiterates that contact tracking figures have improved since a number of improvements were made to the central contact tracking system. For example, today nearly 75 percent of infected patients are approached within 24 hours. 95% of cases are settled within three days. This concerns people where, for example, telephone contact is not successful, and field agents visit the site.
Tomorrow Minister Beke and his colleague Bart Somers (Open VLD, competent for local authorities) will explain some things to the cities and municipalities.