HSE expects up to 80% of population would use track and trace coronavirus app

The HSE is to seek government approval for a Covid-19 contact and tracing app it hopes to launch later this month.
HSE expects up to 80% of population would use track and trace coronavirus app

The HSE is to seek government approval for a Covid-19 contact and tracing app it hopes to launch later this month.

The technology element of the app has been completed and it is currently being trialled by the gardaí.

A data protection assessment has been sent to the Data Protection Commissioner for review.

HSE chief executive, Paul Reid, said the data would be held on a person's mobile phone, not on a central health system.

Mr Reid said the app would be an element of the health authority's contract tracing process – not a major element but a key element.

“No country has yet to date launched a full decentralised model like we are doing, with the data held on the person's phone, not in a central health system,” he said at a media briefing.

A field trial of the app by the gardaí started on Thursday and the data gathered will be destroyed.

Mr Reid said the app was being tested to see at what range it picks up Bluetooth contacts.

He hoped the app could be launched immediately after it was approved by the Government.

Mr Reid said the HSE expected that the uptake of the app would between 60 and 80%, which would be of huge benefit.

People in Ireland were “quite adaptable” to mobile technology and the uptake of smartphones was quite strong.

While hopeful that most people would use the app he stressed that the HSE's main focus would continue to be on testing and tracing.

Mr Reid said they had received “very early reassurances” from the Data Protection Commissioner that breaches did not occur when the HSE told employers of workers' Covid-19 test results.

The health authority also received “very strong legal advice” that also reassured them that no breaches had occurred

The HSE immediately suspended the practice of informing employers about test results two weeks ago while it sought guidance from the commissioner.

Paul Reid
Paul Reid

At the time the health authority said that in exceptional circumstances the health authority could inform an employer first.

Mr Reid said procedures were being finalised so the exceptions for informing employers of test results were consistently applied.

Figures from the HSE also show that contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 are four times more likely to test positive for the virus.

Mr Reid said they tested 322 close contacts and found that 24 were positive for the coronavirus and that demonstrated that close contacts were four times more likely to test positive than non-contacts.

He added that 87% of the 24 who tested positive for Covid-19 had no symptoms.

Mr Reid said there were 140 confirmed Covid-19 cases in hospital on Friday morning, an 85% decrease from a peak of 879 on April 13.

“Many hospitals across the system now have no confirmed case and that is certainly the way we would like it to continue,” he said.

There were 37 patients in intensive care, a decrease of 77% when the number of patients peaked on April 9.

Mr Reid said the week ahead was a very important one with the further reduction of restrictions but added that Ireland was still a society living with a deadly virus.

HSE Chief Operations Officer, Anne O'Connor, said they had identified 400 children with significant health needs, challenging behaviours and significant disabilities to be supported by special needs assistants.

The health authority has already vetted about 4,000 SNAs as they would start providing sessions to children this month in disability settings.

Ms O'Connor said it was a significant development because it would start getting children into the services that they needed.

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