What to do with local outbreaks of coronavirus? | Global | DW

When the New York Times reported on the German town of Gütersloh in previous years, it was always Bertelsmann. The international media giant is based in this city with 100,000 inhabitants, but also has a power plant in New York. In recent days, however, Gütersloh has reached the pages of the international press again, after the outbreak of coronavirus broke out at the meat processing company Tönnies, in the administrative district that bears the same name as the city. Many workers from Romania and other countries in the eastern European Union work at Tönnies.Of the almost 7,000 employees of the meat processing concern that were tested, over 1550 were tested positive for the new coronavirus. All employees were placed in quarantine, the government of North Rhine-Westphalia ordered a lockdown for the entire region. In other parts of Germany, there have been massive local outbreaks of coronavirus: in the Neukölln district of Berlin, at least 370 families are in quarantine, so far 100 inhabitants have been tested positive, including Romanian citizens. A block of flats has been isolated in Göttingen, 120 people living in the complex are infected. Waves also made large outbreaks resulting from religious services.

Outbreaks of local infection in many parts of Europe and in Israel

Such local outbreaks of infections, also called “clusters”, do not exist only in Germany. Such cluster incidents occur in many European countries, amid the general relaxation of anti-coronavirus measures: especially within larger families, in companies or restaurants. In Wales, at a poultry processing plant in Anglesey, 158 employees were tested positive for coronavirus by the end of last week. And there is talk of imposing a lockdown; Numerous cases of infection with the new coronavirus have also been reported in factories in Yorkshire and Wrexham. “When we start taking such relaxation measures in society, we can reach isolated outbreaks, which we were already expecting,” said the Welsh health authority.

Six people died in an old people’s home in the Austrian town of Liesing in the first two weeks of June. They had become infected with the new coronavirus, and some of them were already suffering from serious illnesses. In May, more than 70 employees were tested positive at parcel post offices in Vienna and Lower Austria. And after a meeting of the members of the Rotary Club of Salzburg, 14 participants have been found positive so far.

In Israel, in the first phase of the pandemic, the government imposed a major lockdown and even involved the internal secret services in the fight against the virus. Successful: cases registered in Israel have been reduced in number compared to other countries. But in the middle of it, many restrictions were abruptly dropped. There are now fears of a second wave of the epidemic, after 300 new cases a day began to be recorded again. Infections have grown massively, especially in schools, meanwhile 200 of Israel’s 500 schools are closed again.

The difference between non-hazardous and dangerous outbreaks

Peter Klimek is a researcher at the University of Medicine in Vienna, at the Complexity Science HUB, and is one of the scientists on the team advising the Austrian government in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. He considers that these isolated outbreaks differ in nature from each other, which makes them more or less dangerous: “In the case of small groups, it is not too worrying, because we can track and identify the contacts of infected people.” But it is different when such outbreaks of infections break out as a result of large gatherings of people. “At a large meeting, such an outbreak would mean much more difficult data processing and much more difficult tracking of contacts.”

If the infections come from a single cluster, where the chain of infections can be traced, then the situation is not worrying, says Klimek. “Or if it’s 50 separate cases, independent of each other, people who go to the doctor with symptoms in different parts of the country.” If several outbreaks occur simultaneously in which the chain of infection is difficult to track, then an entire country could be subject to total blockade again.

Focus on the 4 T’s

The most important measures at such local outbreaks would be the four T’s, says Klimek: Tracking, Tracing, Testing and Treatment. The contacts of those infected need to be identified quickly, those infected need to be isolated and treated, and people in their entourage need to be tested. If this system works well, then local outbreaks of infections can be kept under control, says the expert.

But it seems that these four T’s are not always enough, as the situations in Europe and Israel show. In Bulgaria, the government has reintroduced the obligation to wear protective masks: since June 23, they are mandatory in shopping malls, shops, cinemas and theaters. Mandatory wearing of masks had been canceled in mid-June, but the Sofia government reintroduced the measure after new cases escalated in recent days.

Israel A new shutdown is not excluded

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also drawn public attention to the growing number of infections. “If we do not change the behavior of wearing masks and keeping our distance, then we will reintroduce the shutdown, even if we do not want to do it,” he said. Some neighborhoods in Jaffa, part of Tel Aviv, have already been isolated. as well as two Bedouin communes in the south of the country.

In Luxembourg, the government is trying to prevent a second wave by conducting large-scale tests on the entire population. The country’s 600,000 inhabitants and 300,000 commuters have been divided into groups and will be tested regularly to immediately identify and block new chains of infection.

“There is no one measure better than all the others

Researcher Peter Klimek says that in addition to the four T’s, additional measures to block the spread of new outbreaks differ from country to country. “There is no better measure than any other to definitely solve the problem. It is a mix of measures.”

In this mix of measures, it is of course important to keep your distance and comply with hygiene measures, as well as to limit social contacts. It is clear in retrospect that the closure of schools and restaurants has also had an obvious effect in reducing new cases. Another effective measure would be protective masks. In future outbreaks, the sooner measures are taken, the more effective they are, the researcher concludes.

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