A big surge in demand for Carmarthenshire’s Covid test, trace, protect (TTP) team has prompted council chiefs to ask people to consider isolating themselves before Christmas.
The authority said the TTP team has been dealing with around 600 new cases over the last few days.
With the current isolation regulations standing at 10 days, it means anyone contacted from December 15 will be told they have to isolate on Christmas Day.
As of December 14 there were 413.7 Covid cases per 100,000 in Carmarthenshire, 60% more than a fortnight ago.
Council leader Emlyn Dole said the situation was very serious, and urged people to avoid mixing in the coming days to better protect their families over the shortened festive period.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy Christmas, but the surge in cases we’re currently experiencing means it’s inevitable that some people will be isolating over Christmas and the New Year, or worse still suffering with Covid-19,” he said.
“We can only hope that for most people this is just a minor illness. But as we all know, Covid-19 is unpredictable and unfortunately some people are becoming severely ill or losing loved ones to this terrible virus.”
The TTP team currently comprises 60-plus stuff, and recruitment is under way to add to that.
Team members cover 8am to 8pm shifts, seven days a week. They contact any Carmarthenshire resident who has tested positive, asking the person to confirm where they have been in the last two to three days and who they have been in close contact with.
Infection control manager Adele Lodwig said: “We absolutely rely on people’s honesty to trace anyone who they may have come in to contact with.
“We understand people may not want to tell us where they’ve been, but this information is vital if we are to protect others, particularly the most vulnerable, from becoming ill.”
She said the majority of people were taking this responsibility seriously, but that there was “a concerning number of people who do not give us the full details we need”, maybe because they have gone against the rules and didn’t want to admit it.
Asked by the Local Democracy Reporter Service what contact tracers said to people who were reluctant to provide a list of close contacts, she replied: “We are not judgemental – we need the facts to shut down the spread and isolate the contacts and we maintain strict confidentiality of all the information we are provided.
“We are finding that ‘Covid fatigue’ has set in – people don’t want to isolate. It’s totally understandable, but isolating is critical to containing the spread.”
Ms Lodwig said the team contacted vulnerable people who had tested positive on a daily basis, and let everyone who they contacted know when they could expect to go back to normal activities,
She added: “But we’re unable to keep daily checks on everyone – we are relying people to be sensible and considerate to others.
“We do have a team of officers that will go out and door knock on individuals that have not responded to our contacts to ensure we give them the advice they need to follow.”
She said the £500 payment offer for people on low income to self-isolate would make a positive difference.
Meanwhile, the TTP is expanding to meet demand.
“If things continue as they are, we could potentially see a doubling of cases by Christmas and we are urging people to make sensible choices about their mixing and movements,” said Ms Lodwig.