A new online service allowing people who test positive for Covid-19 to share the numbers of their close contacts with the HSE is being established.
But the service, due to be ready in the coming weeks, will not be rolled out unless there is another major surge in virus cases, according to the HSE.
The facility is being set up to support HSE contact tracing efforts to communicate with close contacts as soon as possible.
Currently, the HSE’s Contact Tracing Management Programme makes contact with each person with a positive test result to provide advice on managing symptoms, isolation and to collect close contact details.
Close contacts are asked to take a Covid-19 test and are requested to restrict their movements for 14 days since they were last in contact with the confirmed case.
On Friday 29th January the HSE recommended automatic testing of close contacts five days from when they were last in contact with a positive case.
“As part of our technology improvement initiative we are developing a new online service that will allow people who test positive to share the phone numbers of their close contacts with us,” said a HSE spokeswoman.
“People are at the heart of our contact tracing programme and we will endeavour to phone all people who test positive. However, we are developing this online service to support contact tracing if there is a large surge again to ensure that we can always make contact with cases as soon as possible. This allows us to follow up with their contacts and arrange a free COVID-19 test for each close contact.”
She added that identity of people will be protected and will not be shared with those whose contact details they have provided.
Information collected will only be used for the purpose of contact tracing and learning about the disease, according to the HSE.
“It is envisaged that this service will be ready in the coming weeks so that it can be switched on if needed at any point in the future.”
Contact tracing is carried out in centres in Galway, Limerick, Cork and Dublin. Between 27 January and 2 February the average number close contacts was 2.9 per person.
During the time period contact tracing was completed for around 7000 individuals that had a confirmed Covid-19 case, while more than 9,000 calls were made to close contacts.
As of 1 February there were 882 staff supporting contact tracing.
Demand for testing in the community has fallen by 65 per cent since the most recent peak in demand for community testing from 30 December to 5 January.