THE HSE is set to ask anyone who tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend to alert any close contacts themselves.
It comes after the contact tracing system became overwhelmed with new cases between Friday and Sunday of last week.
As a result, 2,000 to 2,500 individuals who tested will be sent a text asking them to tell anyone they have come into close contact with to contact their GP and undergo a coronavirus text.
According to the Irish Times, the HSE decided on the course of action amid fears it would lead to a delay of days in contact tracing.
The system will now concentrate on tracing the contacts of Monday’s cases in order to avoid a potential backlog given the continuing high of daily cases.
There are several exemptions to the one-off change.
Vulnerable people over the age of 70 and any schoolchildren among the confirmed Covid-19 cases recorded over the weekend will still be assisted by the contact tracing system.
The HSE has been keen to stress that the move is a "temporary measure" and a "once off" .
“In response to the high numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 over the past weekend, and in a continuing effort to maintain effective turnaround times for contact tracing, the HSE is asking a limited number of people to alert their own close contacts of their positive result as a once-off measure,” said Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE manager in charge of testing and tracing told the Irish Times.
“This step is being taken to ensure that each person receives information as quickly as possible, allowing them to be aware of their status as a close contact and to take action to care for themselves, and protect others from infection.”
Speaking to Morning Ireland, Donegal GP Dr Denis McCauley offered up some advice to anyone who may have tested positive over the weekend.
"I would encourage them to make a list of the people they think are close contacts and not casual contacts,” he said.
"That's someone who they were in contact with for greater than 15 minutes over the previous few days be it indoors or outdoors.
"And to ring them and say: 'Listen, I'm positive and I have been advised to contact you that you may need a test and some information given to you by your GP. Would you mind ringing them, this is a once off process that's happened over the weekend.'"
Sinn Fein spokesperson on health David Cullinane described the development as "extremely concerning".
"The report tonight (Tuesday) by the Irish Times that up to 2,500 people will be asked to contact their own close contacts represents a fundamental breakdown in the tracing system.
“The system is overwhelmed and this is a direct result of rising cases and underinvestment. It is extremely concerning.
"Sinn Féin have been calling for some time for an enhanced tracing system and for additional tracers to be recruited. There are constant reports coming from tracers about staff being overworked and a lack of training. Such reports have been met by denial from government.
"The government promised 1,200 additional tracing staff recently and that target has not been achieved.
"They have not in fact, spelled out how many tracers have been recruited - despite being repeatedly asked for this information.
"The time for talking and for promises by the Minister for Health is over. This is a serious situation that has happened on his watch."