A "swift, highly co-ordinated and extremely effective" response to Covid-19 kept infection and mortality rates among Dublin's homeless population low, with just 63 infections and one death recorded.
A new report, 'Saving Lives in the time of Covid-19', by the London School of Economics and the Ana Liffey Drug Project, found that of 750 people tested for Covid-19 across homeless services in Dublin just 63 people tested positive and one fatality was recorded by early June.
Clinical Lead for Homelessness in Dublin, Dr Austin O’Carroll, said a “swift, highly co-ordinated and extremely effective” Covid-19 response helped to save lives. The worst-case forecast was a loss of 23 lives and the best-case was six lives but by June 1 just one death was recorded, he confirmed.
“If action was not taken immediately, we envisioned the epidemic sweeping across the sector causing a high death rate,” Dr O'Carroll said, adding the sector was "very happily surprised" by the low rate of infection and "negligible" death rate.
CEO of Ana Liffey Drug Project, Tony Duffin, said the HSE and Dublin City Council showed “great leadership” and that a “collective response” by statutory and voluntary services led to the positive outcome.
During the outbreak, 330 people who were homeless or using drugs in Dublin, were placed in isolation and over 500 were cocooned.
Improved access to drug treatment saw an extra 200 people commence methadone treatment after a cap on treatment numbers was lifted and reduced waiting times from 12-14 weeks to two to three days. Other measures included a prescription home delivery service, more widely available naloxone to prevent drug overdoses, and a benzodiazepine maintenance programme that benefitted 70 people.
Mr Duffin said of the benzodiazepine programme: “If someone is addicted to benzodiazepines giving them a prescription to stabilise was really important so they wouldn't go out looking for drugs”.
“We want to maintain ease of access to treatment and we certainly don't want to go back to waiting times of 12 to 13 weeks," he said.