Ireland fares well on Covid-19 isolation supports but further measures needed

An international study found Ireland is ahead in offering support for addiction, food, accommodation and mental health, but lags in terms of PPE, information and enforcement. 
Ireland fares well on Covid-19 isolation supports but further measures needed

Hiqa compared data from 19 countries to assess its international standing on Covid-19 isolation supports. File Picture.

Ireland fares well internationally on supports for individuals who need to self-isolate due to Covid-19 but falls down on monitoring and enforcement and should also expand available supports.

That’s according to a review of ‘self-isolation’ supports in 19 countries carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), which issued advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on the issue earlier this month.

While there is variation in the range and scale of ‘self-isolation’ supports internationally, Hiqa concluded that Ireland compares “positively” to other countries.

As part of the review, Hiqa looked at the effectiveness of measures, such as financial support or support with everyday tasks like food shopping.

The review looked at supports for mental health, addiction, safety, medicines, food, accommodation, provision of care, PPE, helpline, website, apps, assistance payment, as well as monitoring and enforcement measures.

Ireland provides most of these supports but fell down on safety, PPE, information apps, and monitoring and enforcing people who need to self-isolate.

Ireland is one of five countries, out of 19 assessed, that does not have measures in place to either monitor individuals in self-isolation or to apply penalties for breaching regulations.

Australia, Belgium and France were the only countries to monitor those self-isolating, while Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales were among 13 countries that enforce self-isolation by means of fines or prison terms.

In its advice to Nphet, the health watchdog said that a universal and comprehensive package of supports should be made available when infection rates fall to low levels and that the use of enforcement measures should also be considered.

Hiqa also called for additional supports, in particular greater use of the Community Call initiative to support those who are self-isolating as well as providing more isolation accommodation for those who cannot do so in their homes.

Dr Máirín Ryan, Hiqa’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said:

Self-isolation and restriction of movement are the keys to breaking chains of transmission in this pandemic. 

The supportive measures we currently have in place in Ireland are necessary, appropriate and need to stay in place.”

“However, given the high rate of transmission within households, consideration should be given to expanding the use of Community Call to support those who are in self-isolation or restricting their movements. Community Call could provide assistance, if needed, with obtaining essential items such as food, medicines and medical masks,” she continued.

“Extending the provision of alternative accommodation for those who cannot effectively self-isolate or restrict their movements at home would also be another way to reduce the spread of Covid-19,” she added.

Hiqa further recommended the development of an app or web application to help people identify social and financial supports and suggested that Covid-19 track and trace staff could also assist with signposting people to relevant supports.

“As case numbers lower in the community, the use of universal, comprehensive support packages should be considered for individuals who are self-isolating and restricting their movements,” Dr Ryan said.

“Individuals should use the available information to develop a plan for their household should the need to self-isolate or restrict movements arise,” she added.

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