HSE to launch 14-day contract tracing to identify coronavirus ‘hot spots’

Tracers will contact 500 recent cases to establish movements before illness

Two phones with the Covid Tracker  contact tracing app. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Two phones with the Covid Tracker contact tracing app. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


A more comprehensive approach to identifying “hot spots” of Covid infection during the contact-tracing process will initially be limited to 500 cases, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed.

The head of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Dr John Cuddihy, outlined the 14-day “look back” exercise at the Oireachtas Covid committee on Wednesday.

It will involve putting a detailed questionnaire to people who have tested positive for the virus and acquired it through “community transmission” – which is when public health doctors are unsure of the source of the infection.

The HSE confirmed today that the initial exercise will “involve interviewing 500 recent cases of community transmission in relation to their contacts and settings that they visited in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms”.

This may be repeated, the HSE said, or incorporated into the wider contact-management programme, but those decisions will be informed by the findings of the project.

Questions in the exercise will focus on visits to relatives or friends’ homes, eating out, entertainment, special events, sport and exercise, public transport or religious services, among other criteria.

This, the HSE said, will enable quantitative analysis “to identify key settings where exposure to infection most likely occurred and potential hot spots for infection”.

In some instances, people with Covid have been asked during the contact-tracing process to outline their movements for up to 14 days.

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