More than 700 contact tracers have had their contracts extended by another two months to the end of June 2022, in another sign that the HSE sees the Covid-19 pandemic continuing well into next year.
CPL, the recruitment company used by the health service to employ contact tracers, has notified the contact tracers that they will be needed for a further two months next year.
The notification, extending contracts to June 30th, 2022, comes just three weeks after contact tracers were told their contracts were being extended to the end of April of next year.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said the extension was “to give greater stability” to the contact tracing service.
“This is also consistent with contract extensions provided for community swabbers and staff in the vaccination programme,” said the spokeswoman.
There are 787 workers involved in contact tracing for the HSE, of which 721 have been hired and retained as part of a dedicated workforce to support contact tracing on Covid-19 cases.
The surge in Covid-19 infections in this fourth wave of the pandemic has put the HSE’s testing and tracing system under severe pressure.
The HSE has said that in the week to November 16th, a total of 25,683 calls were completed to tell people that their Covid-19 tests had detected the virus.
Contact tracing was completed for about 24,700 people with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
Since the end of September, there has been no routine contact tracing for cases in schools.
Since the start of this month, contact tracers have been asking confirmed cases to upload details of their close contacts themselves on an online system unless the infected person is connected with a creche or school, lives in a nursing home or is a patient in hospital, or doesn’t speak English.
New daily Covid-19 cases have more than doubled to about 4,400 based on the seven-day average of daily cases, a metric that evens out daily fluctuations in case numbers.
More than 200,000 Covid-19 tests have been carried out over the past seven days, putting the test and tracing system under heavy strain.