Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health and Chair of the Health Committee Colm Gildernew expressed deep concern when it was revealed today that the Public Health Agency drastically underestimated the need for COVID-19 Contact Tracing Services.
At today’s Health Committee senior PHA officials were unable to provide clear details on the number of full-time contact tracers working within the service.
Speaking after the committee meeting Mr Gildernew said, “It is staggering that over 7 months into this pandemic the Public Health Agency could not give a clear account of how many full-time contact tracers it has currently, or the amount of contact tracers it needs.
“The PHA acknowledged to committee members today that it has grossly underestimated the level of demand on contact tracing services.
“According to the PHA they are equipped to deal with only 300 cases a day when the current number of daily cases that need serviced is approximately 900.
“The summer period provided the time and space to rapidly scale up the contact tracing capacity, to enable an effective response, before a second wave of the virus materialised.
“It has been widely known for months that a second wave of the virus was a real possibility but it appears that the opportunity to build adequate contact tracing capacity over the summer has been wasted.
“Public services have a duty to enable and provide systems to test, trace, isolate and support those with COVID-19 and in terms of contact tracing its clear the system isn’t working as it should be.
“The PHA as a matter of urgency need to address the deficit in capacity for contact tracing over the next month so that it is fit to tackle the virus and allow us to come out of the current phase of restrictions.”