Germany, a country of more than 83 million people, has flattened its coronavirus curve, dropping from a peak of more than 6,000 new cases a day to just around 600 now. Contact tracing by telephone is one tool the country has relied on.
“Public Health Authority, Pankow,” says an operator, answering her phone before the first ring is over and identifying the Berlin district where she works. “So,” she confirms with the caller, “you’ve had contact with someone who’s tested positive.”
She asks for the name of the infected person, types it into her computer, and the caller’s name appears on her screen as someone the contact tracers were about to call.
“Did you spend more than 15 minutes at close contact with this person?” the operator asks. The caller tells her they went for a walk.
Across Germany, there are about 400 call centers like this one, each filled with dozens of operators fielding calls from worried citizens, taking first steps at contact tracing and referring callers to medical personnel.