A team of contact tracers faced angry family members as they investigate the home of an elderly man who had passed away with signs of COVID-19.
The deceased has tested positive for COVID-19 but unfortunately passed away before receiving the results.
Contact tracers arrived at the man’s home to see a gathering of friends and family mourning his death. “There was silence the moment we arrived. It was tense, but we had a job to do,” reported a member of the contact tracing team.
The contact tracers attempted to explain to the mourning friends and family that the deceased was to be taken to a community health centre and be buried according to health protocols. They further explained that the deceased had tested positive for COVID-19 and anyone else who had been in contact with him must be tested as well.
The mourning family and friends were enraged and shouted aggressively at the team of contact tracers. Shouting soon escalated to violence and workers were shoved around whilst receiving verbal abuse. This is not the first case of family and friends not cooperating with contact tracing officers.
“When people cooperate, our work is easy. The problem is that a lot of the time, they don’t. They don’t isolate themselves properly or provide contact details and our time is wasted.”
Dr. Mawar, a senior contact tracer, noted that patience is required in such a hard job. “We need to be sympathetic. It is already difficult for them to accept that they or their loved ones have contracted COVID-19. We cannot rush them when we conduct our investigation,” she said.
Anggaro Widyarto, a volunteer contact tracer noted that approximately 20% of people he approaches do not cooperate with him. He noted that there are people who are worried about being ostracised by friends, who wrongly believe the virus is a hoax, or who may not even believe in COVID-19.
Windhu Purnomo from Airlangga University stated that everyone must contribute to combat myths and hoaxes surrounding the virus. “We need to tell people that testing allows them to receive proper treatment and stop the spread. We need to communicate that isolation is for the benefit of others,” he said.