Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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649. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide a further geographical breakdown of Covid-19 positive test results and deaths in north-western areas of Dublin by cluster and community transmission as released by the HPSC. [11221/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Data is collected on COVID-19 for confirmed and probable cases and mortality, in line with recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in both hospitals and the community. We committed from the outset to collect the most extensive data possible in order that the information could inform and guide the public health actions necessary to respond to the very serious threat posed by COVID-19. The Deputy might note that the collection of mortality data in Ireland exceeds that of many other countries in the world.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) publishes daily reports on the epidemiology of Covid-19 in Ireland, including a breakdown of confirmed cases by county, total number of outbreaks/clusters, total number of cases associated with clusters, and the number of clusters/outbreaks by location and HSE area. This report is available at the following link:

The Deputy might also note that data on deaths by county and underlying health condition is now being published by the Central Statistics Office and is available at the following link:

My Department was notified that up to 14 June 2020, there were 25,303 confirmed cases and sadly a total of 1,706 people have died.  For reasons of patient confidentiality, and to protect the identity of those who have died, my Department does not provide a breakdown of deaths below county level.

Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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650. To ask the Minister for Health the efforts he has made in respect of a contact tracing application in relation to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11222/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The HSE has worked intensively since the onset of Covid-19 to develop national testing and contact tracing infrastructure. Contact tracing operations are at the centre of the health service response to Covid-19 and protecting our communities in the phases ahead. Key to effective contact tracing is the capacity to get quick and comprehensive notification to all close contacts of people infected with Covid-19. The Covid Tracker app has been developed to complement our current arrangements and help improve the speed and comprehensiveness of contact tracing. The app has other features also such as the daily symptom check-in, and information provision.

The contact tracing app that has been developed for Ireland is very much aligned with the advices and guidance issued by the EU Commission, the OECD and the WHO.  The European Centre for Disease Control recently stated that "the use of mobile contact tracing apps for contact tracing offers several benefits:

- they do not rely on the memory of the case (who may be very ill at the time of interview);

- they allow contacts unknown to the case to be traced (e.g. passengers who sat close on a train);

- they can potentially speed up the process;

- they may facilitate further follow-up of contacts by health authorities via a messaging system. A symptom-checker feature could facilitate this, although it is not essential." 


The primary purpose of the app is to enable the health services to improve the speed and effectiveness of contact tracing. Use of the app will provide for more comprehensive alerting of close contacts of those that have become infected than is currently possible based on interviews of those infected and memory recall. In addition, the app permits citizens to anonymously report symptoms in real-time. The purpose of the symptom tracker is to assist the health services in mapping, predicting and ultimately preventing the spread of Covid-19. The app will also provide direct access to authoritative news, the purpose of which is to ensure that information and up-to-date guidance in relation to Covid-19 is accessible.

App development is now complete and the HSE and my Department are finalising arrangements particularly focussed on embedding and aligning the app within the national testing and contact tracing service. The Department of Health and the HSE have completed a programme of research to support the development of the app. The findings have provided valuable insights from the Irish public and they have informed the development of the app. My Department and HSE have worked with support from across the public service and in partnership with leading scientists through SFI. Ireland is working actively within the EU and is one of a large number of countries planning to roll out this new technology. 

The app will operate on a voluntary and fully opt-in basis.  The app will be launched once the necessary final approvals have been received from HSE, Department of Health, and Government.


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