An enhanced testing and tracing system for Covid-19 is to be launched on Wednesday which is anticipated to halve the variety of instances the place well being officers can’t determine the place an individual has been contaminated.
Presently, 80 per cent of instances of Covid-19 are traced to a selected supply by the Well being Service Govt’s contact tracing centres or by HSE public well being groups. The remaining 20 per cent are labeled as instances of neighborhood transmission.
Public well being officers typically reclassify these instances after they have the chance to contact the person once more. This often reduces the 20 per cent neighborhood transmission determine downwards, and the brand new uniform method is anticipated to carry neighborhood transmission all the way down to 8-10 per cent.
As of Wednesday, contact tracers will ask folks with Covid-19 who’re labeled as instances of neighborhood transmission further questions on occasions or locations they had been at within the seven days earlier than their signs started. So far, contact tracing calls have generally solely traced exercise for the 48-hour interval previous to a optimistic check outcome.
If the confirmed case didn’t have signs, contact tracers will ask about occasions or locations they had been on the week earlier than the day of their Covid-19 check.
The HSE mentioned conducting this exercise as commonplace process goals to determine the place transmission might have occurred in additional instances. It will present real-time details about occasions and conditions of the place the virus is spreading.
Public well being groups might then determine to supply testing to people who had been on the identical venue or setting concurrently the confirmed case, to cease additional unfold of illness and stop clusters of Covid-19 growing locally.
HSE medical lead for contact administration programme Dr Greg Martin mentioned the train will determine contacts who could also be asymptomatic.
“They may then be provided a check and that might be a mechanism the place we’ll determine extra instances, and the place we determine extra instances there is a chance to interrupt transmission,” he mentioned.
“On the cut-off date the place persons are recognized as having been in a setting that we’re investigating, they are going to be provided a check, however they received’t at that time be requested to limit their actions per se, as a result of at that time we don’t know actually in the event that they had been an in depth contact or not.
“At that cut-off date, we’re simply taking a look at that setting. We don’t have any agency data or knowledge to counsel that was essentially the setting during which there was transmission. However as quickly as we all know that these folks had been in reality uncovered, they are going to be given the suitable public well being recommendation.”
Dr Martin mentioned the method is only when case numbers are low. “So, as this pandemic ultimately simmers down and the vaccine programme takes impact and we see the numbers actually coming down, this type of contact tracing turns into more and more efficient,” he mentioned.
“We consider will probably be efficient even on the ranges now we have in the intervening time, however are completely positive that because the numbers go down, this type of chasing each final case goes to be an necessary a part of the endgame of our public well being response to this pandemic.”
Nevertheless, the system has “nearly no worth” in a situation the place numbers are at “extraordinarily excessive ranges”, in line with Dr Martin. “It’s one thing we’ll protect the chance to activate and off relying what’s most applicable at a given time.”
There are 825 employees within the contact tracing programme, however there aren’t any plans to tackle further employees to cope with the extra workload.
HSE nationwide lead for testing and tracing Niamh O‘Beirne mentioned it will contain a further six or seven minutes on the cellphone within the 20 per cent of optimistic instances which might be labeled as neighborhood transmission. “It’s nicely throughout the capability of the contact tracing system to choose that up,” she mentioned.