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The director general of the HSE Paul Reid has apologised to the 2,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 who were asked to forward a text to their own contacts.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, I regret it,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show. What had happened at the weekend was a cause of concern he said, but it was not a decision that was taken lightly.

Mr Reid said his professional view was that lockdown impacts on society and on the health service and he would prefer to avoid it, but he supported “where we are now with the escalation to Level 5 restrictions.

“We were not catching up on the backlog over the weekend.” Despite recruiting an extra 70 contact tracers per week, the “huge surge” in the past 10 days “did catch us.”

The recruitment process had not caught up with the surge in cases, he said. The recruitment campaign had commenced on September 7th, 2,000 had applied, 800 interviews were held over five weeks. There were now 500 working in contact tracing with the plan to build up to 800 in the next few weeks.

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