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HSE to start testing close contacts again from tomorrow

Close contacts of confirmed cases have not been tested since New Year’s Eve.

HSE CEO Paul Reid at Dr Steevens’ Hospital for the weekly HSE operational update today.
HSE CEO Paul Reid at Dr Steevens’ Hospital for the weekly HSE operational update today.
Image: Leon Farrell/RN

THE HSE HAS confirmed that it will start testing close contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 again from tomorrow onwards. 

The Covid-19 testing criteria for close contacts changed last month due to the widespread level of infection and increased pressure on the testing system. 

Speaking at today’s press briefing HSE chief Paul Reid said: 

“At present, close contacts of a confirmed case are receiving the SMS to inform them of their close contact status.

“As and from tomorrow 29 January, the programme will reinstate its calling of close contacts and scheduling of appointments. So from tomorrow, close contacts of a confirmed case will be referred to a Covid-19 test centre for a test on day five.”

The HSE will review this process in a week, with a view to moving back to two tests for close contacts at some stage, but for the moment it’ll just be one test for close contacts for the moment – on day five. 

Reid said that close contacts are now averaging at 2.8 per person. 

Yesterday, the HSE said it would have to see the level of coronavirus positive cases drop at a consistent level, over a consistent period of time, before it could consider reintroducing automatic testing again. 

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The “temporary measure” of not testing close contacts of confirmed cases has been in place since New Year’s Eve. At the time cases were beginning to climb over 1,500 – the HSE’s capacity for a full contact tracing service and close contact testing.

Despite daily case numbers in the thousands earlier in the month, they have begun to fall again with yesterday seeing 1,335 new cases reported. 

- With reporting from Michelle Hennessy 

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