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HSE forced to ask people to alert their own close contacts due to 'unprecedented pressure'

The HSE decided not to contact infected people from Friday, Saturday and Sunday over fears it would lead to significant delays in contact tracing.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

THE HSE IS to ask more than 2,000 people who received a positive Covid-19 test result last week to alert their own close contacts due to “unprecedented pressure” on Ireland’s contact tracing system. 

The HSE said it will send a text message today to between 2,000 and 2,500 people who have been informed by text of their infection, asking them to inform their own close contacts that they should restrict their movements and contact their GP “immediately” to arrange a test. 

The HSE said its contact tracing teams have faced “unprecedented pressure” over the past two weeks. Contact tracers normally contact close contacts of infected cases to arrange for them to be tested. 

“This step is being taken to ensures that each person receives information as quickly as possible, allowing them to be aware of their status and to take action to care for themselves, and protect others from infection,” a spokesperson for the HSE said, adding that is a “once-off” decision. 

As first reported by the Irish Times, the HSE decided not to contact the infected people from Friday, Saturday and Sunday over fears it would lead to significant delays in contact tracing and instead will focus on tracing contacts of Monday’s cases to avoid delays as daily cases continue to rise.

Vulnerable people over 70 and schoolchildren among the confirmed Covid-19 cases over the three days, however, are being called and their close contacts traced, the HSE said. 

“We know that people would prefer a personal call at what can be a worrying time and we would prefer to make those calls and to continue to do that going into the future,” Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said in a statement. 

“For this temporary measure, we should reiterate that the contact tracing process has always been led by the information given to us by the people we are calling, so we are confident that the people involved will be able to identify their own contacts and will contact them as soon as possible.”

COVID BRIEFING 22 HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

On average, Covid-19 cases have five close contacts. 

“In response to the high numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 over the past weekend, and in a continuing effort to maintain effective turnaround times for contact tracing, the HSE is asking a limited number of people to alert their own close contacts of their positive result,” the HSE spokesperson said. 

“This step is being taken to ensures that each person receives information as quickly as possible, allowing them to be aware of their status and to take action to care for themselves, and protect others from infection.”

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The HSE will today ask infected people identified between Friday and Sunday to forward the text message to their close contacts. 

The “one-off temporary measure” is being implemented in consultation with GPs, to ensure those affected are tested as quickly as possible, the spokesperson said. 

Health officials last night confirmed a further 1,269 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and 13 more deaths. 

It comes as the country enter Level 5 restrictions from midnight. 

According to the Department of Health, 111,688 tests have been carried out over the past seven days. 

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