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Department of Health publishes Covid-19 strategy document

By Reporter - 12th Oct 2022

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The Department of Health has published a new document entitled Strategic Approach to the Management of Covid-19: Preparedness for Autumn/Winter 2022/23.

The report outlines the Department’s strategy for the management of Covid-19 for the upcoming autumn and winter months and places a particular emphasis on preparedness and contingency planning.

The report has been informed by ongoing, comprehensive monitoring of the epidemiological situation, international guidance, ongoing engagement across the various functions of the Department and the HSE, and by the work of the Covid-19 Advisory Group and the Public Health Reform Expert Advisory Group.

The Department’s strategic objectives are presented thematically in the report as follows:

  • Lessons learned from Covid-19
  • Testing, tracing, and surveillance
  • Covid-19 vaccination
  • Therapeutics
  • Non-pharmaceutical interventions
  • Research and innovation and horizon scanning
  • Communications and community engagement

The report also sets out an ‘emergency response plan’, detailing the contingency plans in place to ensure Ireland can appropriately escalate its Covid-19 response in the event of a new variant of concern that is a risk to population health with potential for high morbidity and mortality arising from infection. The emergency response plan covers key public health response domains, like surveillance, testing and contact tracing, vaccination, non-pharmaceutical interventions, public health restrictive measures, communications and cross-government strategic response structures.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “I am pleased to publish this report, which provides insight into the work of my department over the past number of months on winter preparedness and contingency planning in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 response. The winter period is traditionally a challenging time for our health and social care services. As we know, the pandemic is not over, and it is anticipated that Covid-19 will place a significant additional burden over the coming winter period on our health service.

“Winter preparedness and contingency planning work has been underway in the Department of Health for some time under the leadership of Chief Medical Officer, Prof Breda Smyth. The Department’s strategic approach to the management of Covid-19 has also been informed by the recommendations of the Covid-19 Advisory Group and Public Health Reform Expert Advisory Group. I wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions made by the members of both groups and thank them for their dedication and their time.”

Prof Smyth added: “This time three years ago, very few among us could have envisaged what was to come. We never thought that a virus like Covid could impact each and every one of us, disrupting all our lives and, very sadly, leading to severe illness and death for our loved ones. The Department’s strategic response to the management of Covid-19 ensures that we are as prepared as we can reasonably be for all eventualities this winter.

“My office will continue to closely monitor the epidemiological profile of the disease over the coming weeks and months with a view to providing any further advice and recommendations that may be of assistance in respect of the pandemic response. The importance of ongoing vigilance, specifically during the winter season, has been signalled through international guidance and communications from the World Health Organisation (WHO), European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), and the European Commission.

“It is important to keep up to date with your vaccine schedule and make sure to receive a booster dose as soon as you are eligible – vaccines offer a great opportunity to top-up your protection. The HSE has begun to administer Covid-19 booster vaccines and flu vaccines. They are also available from participating GPs and pharmacies and can be given at the same time. If you have not yet received a primary dose of Covid-19 vaccine, you can arrange to do so while also getting your flu vaccine.”

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