Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Health
292. To ask the Minister for Health his plans and efforts to date to tackle heightened incidence rates of Covid-19 among the Traveller community (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17675/21]
HPSC data indicate that during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic (22/11/2021 to 27/3/2021) , there have been 263 outbreaks among the Traveller community associated with 3066 cases. Of these cases, 125 persons were hospitalised and 17 have been admitted to ICU. Sadly, there has been a total of 8 deaths due to Covid-19 among Travellers during this period.
The high incidence of Covid-19 outbreaks among Travellers is concerning and reflects two main factors: the basic living conditions in which Travellers live - the social determinants of health - and the tradition of family and communal events, such as funerals and christenings.
Both the Department of Health and the HSE pro-actively monitor and respond to Covid-19 among the Traveller population. The HSE has prioritised Travellers in terms of detection, case management and contact tracing. The following measures were introduced by the HSE national social inclusion office and public health:-
- Traveller Support plans developed in relevant CHO areas;
- regular teleconferences held with Traveller Health Units to develop guidance for Travellers;
- introduction of a national Traveller helpline;
- development of Traveller specific guidance document which gives general advice about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and dealing with cases of COVID-19);
- development of specific local supports in various CHOs to support Travellers, for example, the Community Assessment Hub in the Mater Hospital is accessible to Travellers;
- national COVID-19 Traveller Service User Experience survey carried out in September 2020, which will help inform service planning throughout the ongoing pandemic,
- website resource page developed with information and resources specifically for Travellers Traveller COVID 19 sharing resources.
- A National Traveller Outbreak Control Team with representatives from relevant stakeholders including Pavee Point,
In addition to the specific public health measures, the steering ctte of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy provides regular updates on the whole of Government response to Covid-19 for Travellers. The Dept of the Taoiseach subcommittee on higher risk groups also monitors the situation for Travellers.
The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme will make a significant advance in our approach to this pandemic. People at highest risk of suffering, and most vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID-19, are prioritised as part of this listing. People aged 16-64 from disadvantaged groups living in congregated settings are prioritised in group 9. This includes people from the Travelling community.
The HSE has hosted webinar on the roll out of the vaccination programme and developed Traveller specific vaccination programme resources.
I am aware that the poor health status of the Traveller community makes them more vulnerable to the health complications associated with Covid-19. The HSE is finalising its national Traveller health action plan and will shortly submit the plan to the Department. I am committed to supporting this plan.