In the Dáil.
Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed to Independent TD Denis Naughten that 30% to 40% of close contacts of meat plant workers who have tested positive have not been followed up. More than 1,048 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in meat processing plants to date.
Mr Harris was speaking in response to a query raised by Independent TD Denis Naughten…
Denis Naughten: “With regard to the meat plants, I am informed that, in some instances, only about one third of the close contacts of those who have been identified as positive within the meat industry have been followed up.
“That is completely unacceptable. It is creating a significant community risk and it is, I believe, down to the failure to have an effective contact tracing system.
“This day two weeks ago, the Minister wrote to me in the context of very serious allegations I had made to him in writing regarding meat plants and nursing homes.
“He informed me that NPHET was to consider the report of the national outbreak management team on 22 May, which is now two weeks ago. On foot of that, the Minister was going to be in a position to address the very serious issues I had raised with him. Two weeks later, I am still waiting for answers to some very serious questions.”
Simon Harris: “In the interests of time, I suggest that I respond to the Deputy in writing on the matters he raised. I am reluctant to disagree with Deputy Naughten because he is often right, as I find out in this House, and he highlighted very important issues here before.
“My information, for what it is worth, is that when it comes to contact tracing of meat plant staff, and I specifically asked this on foot of contact from the Deputy, the amount of contact tracing is much higher than one third and is between at least 60% and 70%, although there are a number of cases in which there are contact and communications difficulties.
“We have a national outbreak team chaired by a very good doctor, Dr Mannix. I suggest that I put the Deputy directly in contact with her for a briefing on the work being done in regard to the meat plants, considering the Deputy has highlighted so many important issues.
“With regard to the negative test results, I should have said that, in order to speed up the process, since the middle of last month we have been delivering negative results by text message. I am told by the HSE that, in the community and the hospital, these text messages are now delivered within a couple of hours of receiving the lab results. The HSE has advised that an end-to-end turnaround time of two days for negative cases is now being achieved in about 80% of cases.”
Naughten: “I acknowledge what the Minister has just said. However, I took my concerns regarding the meat plants directly to the HSE six weeks ago in advance of bringing them up in the House. It was well aware of this a long time ago. That is all I will say.”
Transcript via Oireachtas.ie