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“The performance of the Local Health Authorities during this pandemic is extremely impressive”:
Crisis Response is the motto of the 2021 Local Health Authority Day

Press Release by Robert Koch Institute

Coping with the pandemic is a task for the society as a whole. In this connection, the around 400 municipal health authorities are a central pillar for the protection of public health in Germany. They process COVID-19 reports, trace contact persons, collect im-portant data for the assessment of the situation and advise citizens, institutions and poli-cymakers on issues concerning health protection on site. “The performance of the local health authorities during this pandemic is extremely impressive, despite their resources which have been far too low for years”, Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) emphasizes on the occasion of the Local Health Authority Day on 19 March. “The needs of the local health authorities must be given more attention”,Lothar Wieler stresses. The motto for the 2021 Local Health Authority Day is “Crisis Response” in the light of current events.

During the pandemic the work of the local health authorities is mainly visible through the management of infection cases. If SARS-CoV-2 infections are reported to the local health authority, the persons affected must be contacted and the necessary measures, such as the isolation and tracing of contact persons, must be decided and initiated. COVID-19 cases are transmitted electronically by the local health authority to the competent Land authority and from there to RKI. In the current situation most local health authorities transmit ear-lier and more frequently than provided by law. If they can be identified by the local health authorities, additional data can be communicated, such as the date of onset of the disease and whether the persons affected were hospitalised.

The resources earmarked for the support of the German Public Health Service (Öffentlicher Gesundheitsdienst - ÖGD) were increased last year. Under the pact for the ÖGD, the Federal Government made available comprehensive measures in view of a sustainable support of the ÖGD as well as the necessary financial resources. Another example is the creation of a contact point for the Public Health Service of the German Laender at RKI. The ÖGD contact point permits, amongst other things, a strengthening of the administra-tive assistance activities with which RKI supports the local health authorities on request on site in the event of outbreaks. At the same time, the work at the ÖGD is to be facilitated by digital tools. For the reporting as well as for the processing and exchange of data on all infectious diseases, the further extension of the German Electronic Reporting and Information System for Infection Control (DEMIS) is of prime importance.

Furthermore, around 1,500 Containment Scouts have been deployed for the German local health authorities, more particularly, for the tracing of contact persons. The programme financed by the Federal Ministry of Health is now topped up. RKI provides, amongst other things, teaching materials to prepare the future scouts for their tasks at the local health authority.

The Robert Koch Institute proclaimed the Local Health Authority Day for the first time in 2019 to pay tribute to the work of the around 400 municipal public health authorities and highlight their situation – their staffing had decreased over many years. 19 March is the birthday of Johann Peter Frank. The doctor and community physician born in the 18th century is considered to be the founder of the public health service. There had not been a Local Health Authority Day on a national or international level before. Efficient local health authorities are the backbone of all efforts in support of public health across the world.

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Date: 16.03.2021