The Containment Scouts: First Insights into an Initiative to Increase the Public Health Workforce for Contact Tracing during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Germany
The COVID-19 pandemic in Germany has demanded a substantially larger public health workforce to perform contact tracing and contact management of COVID-19 cases, in line with recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). In response, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) established the national “Containment Scout Initiative” (CSI) to support the local health authorities with a short-term workforce solution. It is part of a range of measures for strengthening the public health system in order to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Germany. The CSI is an example of how solutions to address critical health system capacity issues can be implemented quickly. It also demonstrates that medical or health-related backgrounds may not be necessary to support health authorities with pandemic-specific tasks and fulfil accurate contact tracing. However, it is a short-term solution and cannot compensate for the lack of existing qualified staff as well as other deficits that exist within the public health sector in Germany. This article describes the structure and process of the first phase of this initiative in order to support health policymakers, public health practitioners, and researchers considering innovative and flexible approaches for addressing urgent workforce capacity issues.
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