University students join battle against Covid-19

By Thuy An   February 2, 2021 | 06:00 am PT
University students join battle against Covid-19
Students at the Hai Duong Medical Technical University stay at the Hai Duong Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the eponymous province for contact tracing Covid-19 cases, January 30, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Trung Son.
With coronavirus cases mushrooming in Hai Duong, authorities have enlisted university students for the race to contact trace possible victims.

It was around noon on Saturday when Tran Kieu Trinh, 21, and 20 other university students were typing away on their laptops.

Six rows of tables stretched across a room at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the northern Hai Duong Province, and the students were cross-referencing data on lists containing thousands of names.

They have been enlisted by authorities to contact trace Covid-19 cases amid fresh outbreaks across the nation since last week.

Their job is to retrace the movements of infected people and identify everyone who might have come into contact with them.

Trinh, who is in her third year at the Hai Duong Medical Technical University, decided to stay back instead of going home in the northern Tuyen Quang Province since she wanted to be part of the Covid-19 fight, and did so by joining the Covid-19 contact tracing team right at her school.

The team of 25, including students, teachers and CDC personnel, are on the phone all day to figure out the itineraries of people who are possibly infected and determine who should be quarantined to reduce the burden on field tracers on the ground.

Their job is vital since collecting accurate data about infected people and people who came into close contact with them will play a major role in deciding on quarantine measures.

Every day the team tracks down 40-50 infected people.

Trinh said: "The work is not as hard as those of doctors and nurses on the frontline. But it needs to be done quickly and meticulously so that no one’s movements slip through our fingers."

When they started, Trinh and the rest were most worried about ensuring they did not miss a single link. With Tet getting closer, many people travel a lot to shop, party and the like.

"Some people required three calls before we could gather all the relevant data."

Many do not remember their movements accurately enough, she said.

But she said the toughest challenge is the pressure to contact trace quickly enough to keep up with the surge in number of infections in Hai Duong.

A typical day for the team begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. with a two-hour break at noon.

Truong Thi Thu Huong, a statistics teacher in charge of the phone tracing team, said the students only received brief training but are doing their job efficiently.

By Saturday the team has mobilized 600 students from the Hai Duong Medical Technical University.

Half of them collect samples for Covid-19 testing, while the rest either travel around for tracing or work out of the CDC.

Trinh said she was a bit upset like everyone else on her team at not being able to go back home for Tet.

But she knows she is doing the right thing by contributing her bit to the Covid-19 fight and relieving the burden on medical workers directly facing the pandemic.

"It is going to be a long battle, and for the sake of the community [we should not] stay out of it."

The new wave since last week has seen 276 people being infected in 10 localities: Hai Duong, Quang Ninh, Gia Lai, Bac Ninh, Hoa Binh, Binh Duong, and Bac Giang provinces and Hanoi, HCMC and Hai Phong.

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