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Everyone asked to stay at home, close contacts will not be referred for COVID-19 Test

31st December 2020

In response to the high prevalence of COVID-19 now circulating in our community, the HSE is asking everyone in Ireland to stay at home, and to effectively act like they have COVID-19.  This is in response to the very high rates of positive tests seen over recent days, and the widespread increase in infections in our communities nationwide.

The HSE is also making changes to our testing and contract tracing system. In a continuing effort to maintain effective turnaround times for testing and contact tracing, the HSE will not be referring close contacts for a test from today. This step is being taken to ensure that those who are symptomatic are prioritised and receive a test as quickly as possible.

The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry says: ‘We are asking all close contacts to restrict their movements, this is the strongest defence we have against the spread of this virus. If you show any symptoms please call your GP or GP Out of Hours service immediately and they will refer you for a test if required. We know that GPs and GP Out of Hours services are very busy, and we ask for everyone’s patience as we all work through this challenging time. We are asking that the public support this measure fully and follow all public health advice so that we can all keep our friends and family safe.’ 

People who received notification by SMS that they are a close contact, should follow the existing public health guidance and restrict their movements for 14 days. Should they become symptomatic they should call their GP or GP Out of Hours service and arrange a test.

The text message for close contacts will now advise a person that they are a close contact and that they should restrict their movements and should they show symptoms they should immediately contact their GP to arrange a test.

This temporary measure is being implemented in consultation with GPs, to ensure those who are symptomatic are tested as quickly as possible and that we can continue to try to reduce the spread of the virus. As always we are grateful for the support of our GP community and GP Out of Hours services in referring people for COVID-19 tests and caring for these patients. This step is also to support our contact tracing teams who continue working under significant pressure due to the increasing positivity rate at this point in the pandemic.

Contact tracing is an important part of the HSE’s response to COVID-19. As part of our Testing and Tracing function, the HSE has built a contact tracing workforce, who work under the supervision of the public health specialists. This allows the highly skilled specialists to focus on managing outbreaks; dealing with risk assessments; support complex settings such as residential care facilities; and doing in-depth analysis of sources of transmission in their locality.

An extensive service development programme for our testing and contact tracing programme has been worked through, including recruitment of staff and deployment of new technology to undertake up to 25,000 tests a day and to make 7,500 successful calls to contact trace positive cases. Over the last week the service has been in peak escalation and yesterday we processed over 26,000 swabs, over 2,300 calls were made to people with a detected COVID-19 result and almost 11,000 calls were made to close contacts.

During this unprecedented surge in cases, we are asking the public to support this measure and follow all public health advice and guidance.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Helpful Advice:

I have a COVID test booking:
If you have a test slot booking from the HSE, please attend your appointment. 

I have COVID symptoms:
Please self-isolate, stay in your room, to protect others.
Phone your GP or GP out of Hours service.
Because there is so much COVID in the community at this time, GPs and GP Out of Hours services may be busy, and we appreciate your patience. 

My GP has referred me for a test:
The HSE will offer you a test as soon as we can. You’ll receive this by SMS.
Please continue to self-isolate, stay in your room, to protect others.
People in your household need to restrict their movements unit you have your test result. This is to stop the spread of COVID to other people.
Our website has advice on managing symptoms.
Our website has advice on what to do if symptoms get worse. 

I have received a positive result via SMS:
Please continue to self-isolate, stay in your room, to protect others.
People in your household need to restrict their movements.
This is to stop the spread of COVID to other people.
The HSE will phone you to ask about your close contacts.
We will send your close contacts an SMS with advice but because there is so much COVID in the community we won’t be testing any close contacts at this time.
The advice for close contacts is on our website, https://hse.ie/cvdcc,  so you can send this link to your close contacts now if you wish.
Our website has advice on managing symptoms.
Our website has advice on what to do if symptoms get worse.

I think I’m a close contact
Because there is so much COVID in the community, we all need to act like we are infected and the HSE won’t be testing any close contacts at this time.
Close contacts of a positive case need to restrict their movements for 14 days to ensure they don’t pass on COVID.
If the HSE is notified that you are a close contact, we will send advice to you by SMS. This advice for close contacts is on our website here: https://hse.ie/cvdcc .
If you develop any symptoms of COVID, call your GP or GP Out of Hours service to book a test. 

I am a close contact awaiting a test slot:
Because there is now so much COVID in the community, we all need to act like we are infected and the HSE won’t be testing any close contacts at this time.
If you have not received an SMS with a testing slot, we won’t be offering you a test.
All close contacts need to stay at home for 14 days. This would be the same requirement if you tested positive, or COVID was not detected.
The advice for close contacts is on our website here: https://hse.ie/cvdcc.
Everyone should stay at home now – there is so much COVID in the community that we all need to act like we are infected.
If you develop any symptoms of COVID, call your GP or GP Out of Hours service to book a test.

Last updated on: 31 / 12 / 2020