Covid-19 contact tracing programme being called into question

The Government’s programme of contact tracing for those suffering from Covid-19 has been called into question after it emerged that many people who have tested positive had not been made aware of their result.
Covid-19 contact tracing programme being called into question

The Government’s programme of contact tracing for those suffering from Covid-19 has been called into question after it emerged that many people who have tested positive had not been made aware of their result.

The increase in levels of testing over the past 10 days has seen a change made to the system of notifications for those suspected of having the disease, with general practitioners now being informed of their patients’ status for negative results. Previously news of negative results was to be delivered by text message from the HSE.

However, since that change was made on Sunday a number of GPs have received multiple test results regarding the patients they have referred, including many instances of people who have tested positive.

When contacting those patients they have discovered that the people in question were learning for the first time of their having contracted the illness, with no contact tracing having been initiated by the public system in order to try and isolate where they had picked up the virus.

Contact tracing involves detailing all interactions of a subject with other people over the period they are deemed to have been contagious. It is one of the most important actions being taken by the Irish State to try and isolate the virus, and has been since the first case was discovered here on March 1st.

At that time just 60 people were being employed in contact tracing across the country. That figure is expected to climb to more than 4,000 in the near term, according to HSE chief executive Paul Reid.

GP sources have described the situation of missed positives as being “deeply worrying”.

“The big problem here is contact tracing,” one source told the Irish Examiner. “The fact the test results are being delayed for the most part doesn’t change the management of the patient, since we are effectively under lockdown and anyone with symptoms is supposed to be isolating anyway,” they added. “But if contact tracing isn’t carried out effectively it’s impossible to tell where the illness may have been spread to.”

A separate source said that “it’s true that GPs are getting the results, but not patients, but no one seems to have a perfect reason as to why it is happening”.

The HSE said it was not in a position to comment on the matter at the time of publication. However, it’s understood that the problem, and how to deal with it, formed a key topic of discussion for the National Public Health Emergency Team at its meeting yesterday afternoon.

The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) meanwhile declined to comment on the situation.

The health authorities’ approach to testing has undergone a number of radical changes with regard to who is eligible over the past two weeks.

In mid-March anyone who was feeling ill could be considered for a test - however, that situation led to a backlog of 40,000 people awaiting a swab, with 20,000 applications being received per day.

The eligibility criteria for a test has since changed repeatedly. Firstly, tests were only to be given to people displaying both a fever and one symptom of respiratory illness. That subsequently changed so that only those with underlying health conditions were to be deemed eligible for testing.

Ireland does not provide daily figures as to how many tests have been conducted. Meanwhile, many people across the country have been waiting several weeks for the results of their own tests, with that delay blamed on a shortage of the chemical reagent needed to process swabs.

[snippet1]987600[/snippet1]

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub


War_map
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd