'A real cause of concern': One in four close contacts failing to show up for first Covid-19 test

HSE CEO Paul Reid has said contact tracing teams now have to spend time convincing close contacts to go for a test.

HSE CEO PAUL Reid has said he is concerned about the number of close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases who are failing to turn up for a test. 

In May, health officials announced close contacts of anyone diagnosed with Covid-19 would all be offered testing – on day zero and then again seven days later. There has been concern about the level of uptake, particularly in relation to the second follow-up test on day 7. 

Today Reid said the number of close contacts of a confirmed case has increased now to 5.4 for each case. He said up to 25% of close contacts are not showing up for a test on day zero and only half turn up for their test on day seven.

“It’s really important to stress here that a person may identify as a negative test on day zero, but a quite real potential to test positive on the day seven.”

He said the likelihood of testing positive is “much higher” if a person has been in contact with a positive case.

We strongly advise everybody to come forward, it’s really important you play a part for yourself, for your family, for the wider public, for society, and stopping the spread and second surge.

Reid said contact tracing teams now have to spend considerable time trying to convince some close contacts to take up the offer of a test. He said in many cases the person will agree to the test but then will fail to show up for the appointment.

“That’s a real cause of concern for us.”

Reid said: “In some cases people are saying they feel fine, they feel that they don’t have symptoms and don’t have to go. The calls with those people are taking much longer than they did in the past, a call is taking double, sometimes triple the amount of time.”

He said in some cases people are now back to work and are concerned about the potential impact of testing positive and the requirement to self-isolate.

Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said in this situation people are not the best judges of whether or not they need a test and they should follow the advice of doctors and the contact tracing staff. He pointed out that up to 40% of people may be asymptomatic when they have the disease but this does not mean they cannot pass it on to other people.

“If you are a close contact, you could be positive even if you have no symptoms,” he said.

If you have no symptoms and are positive but don’t get tested, you are at risk of passing that virus on to other people, who are in turn at risk of passing it on if they are asymptotic – and that is called a cluster, which becomes an outbreak which eventually becomes uncontrolled community transmission.

“That is all traced back to individual responsibility and behaviours.”

Dr Henry said this kind of uncontrolled community transmission would be a barrier to the reopening of schools and the resumption of healthcare services.

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