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"No one wanted to go home until they had wrapped up a case"

Wednesday 20 May 2020

"No one wanted to go home until they had wrapped up a case"

A nurse who has been part of Public Health's contact tracing team since the covid-19 pandemic reached our shores has spoken about the commitment of staff to reducing the spread of the corona virus and the public health lessons that she hopes come out of this situation.

Andrea Tostevin is a nurse and the manager of Quitline.

As part of the wider Public Health team, she was one of the first people to be approached about doing contact tracing earlier this year when it became apparent that Covid-19 posed a threat to Guernsey. 

"Before we had the first positive case of Covid-19 in Guernsey we were already prepared because of the situation elsewhere - we did some contact tracing training and quite a few members of the wider Public Health team put themselves forward for that," said Mrs Tostevin. "I am a nurse as well so it made absolute sense that as soon as we got that first positive case, that we were called in to support."

"Contact tracing is a known skill that is used for infectious diseases already, so it’s not anything new, but it was obviously not something we do very often and certainly not something I would ever do in my day to day job.

Dr Nicola Brink

Pictured: Mrs Tostevin praise Dr Nicola Brink's leadership, saying her background as a virologist could not have been better.

"The training was very much about familiarising us with the forms and also having an interactive discussion [with the person being traced] to make sure we got all of the information we were likely to need and using our experience from other areas."

She spoke about the early days of the pandemic, when the number of positive cases were increasing by the day, many of whom had travel history. 

"We were very focused and it was a job that we all very much believed in, the' test, trace, isolate' was core to flattening, and as it turned out, squashing the curve and we were determined that we could do it to prevent our colleagues from the front line from getting involved. As Dr Brink has said through all this, there has been so much of a team effort and we have all worked together.

"We were very keen that the moment we identified a case that the case interview was done as soon as possible following that identification and then as soon as we did that case interview, which was how we identified the contacts, we then started the contact tracing so that we isolated those contacts as soon as possible so we reduced the chance of the spread."

Mrs Tostevin said that team spirit was integral to her team's efforts, which was expanded to around three dozen people as the cases started to pile up. 

"If there was a job that needed doing, we were going to do it and if we were asked to do something the answer was always ‘yes’. We were working seven days a week, long hours every day, but no one wanted to go home until they had wrapped up a case and you had done everything you possible could. It was challenging but we were all supporting each other and again short term it was ok to be working those long hours.


Pictured: Mrs Tostevin and the rest of the contact tracing team all worked seven days a week during the first few weeks of the pandemic.

"We did recognise quite quickly that we couldn’t carry on with those long hours forever and so the contact tracing team was expanded and we got help from different areas. Contact tracing has pretty much ceased these last few weeks which has meant we have been able to focus on our actual day jobs."

Mrs Tostevin is hoping it stays that way, however she is one of a number of staff who are ready to resume contact tracing if and when it's needed.

From a public health perspective, she would like to think that some good can come out of this situation. 

"There are lessons we have all learnt and there are hopefully things we are going to take forward. We are going to have to find a new normal and some of the things are so sensible: the washing of your hands, for example, that is something that may help reduce the impact of viruses like the norovirus and seasonal flu.

"There are things like that where the message has been out there for a long time but has perhaps just not been taken up, but hopefully it will continue being taken up, and maybe as well we are kinder to each other in the future."

Pictured top: Andrea Tostevin. 

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