HIQA finds Ireland’s COVID-19 self-isolating supports equal or better than peer countries but recommends enhancements

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published its advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on the range and effectiveness of measures to support people restricting their movements or in self-isolation.

HIQA’s advice was informed by an international review of public health guidance to identify measures that have been implemented to support those who are in self-isolation or restriction of movements. This was supplemented by an evidence summary to assess the effectiveness of measures (for example financial support, support with everyday tasks such as food shopping) in improving compliance with self-isolation.
HIQA considered guidance from two organisations and 19 countries and found that while there is variation in the range and intensity of supports offered internationally, Ireland compares positively to other countries.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “Self-isolation and restriction of movement are the keys to breaking chains of transmission in this pandemic. The supportive measures we currently have in place in Ireland are necessary, appropriate and need to stay in place. However, given the high rate of transmission within households, consideration should be given to expanding the use of Community Call to support those who are in self-isolation or restricting their movements. Community Call could provide assistance, if needed, with obtaining essential items such as food, medicines and medical masks. Extending the provision of alternative accommodation for those who cannot effectively self-isolate or restrict their movements at home would also be another way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

HIQA recommended that further development of web applications that can help people identify social and financial supports that are both available and applicable to their situation should be considered. Track and trace staff could also help direct people to the resources available to them.
Dr Ryan continued: “As case numbers lower in the community, the use of universal, comprehensive support packages should be considered for individuals who are self-isolating and restricting their movements.”

She added: “Individuals should use the available information to develop a plan for their household should the need to self-isolate or restrict movements arise.”

HIQA is also publishing an update to its international review of public health measures and strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19. This update includes information on international antigen testing policies in asymptomatic individuals in community settings.

You can find these documents here.

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Further information:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7480/085 805 5202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • HIQA has today published or updated the following documents to inform NPHET’s response to COVID-19:
    • Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Measures to support people in self-isolation or restriction of movements and the evidence of the effectiveness of such measures.
    • Rapid review: Measures to support people in self-isolation or restriction of movements and the evidence of the effectiveness of such measures.
    • Public health measures and strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19: An international review of antigen testing in asymptomatic individuals in community settings.
  • NPHET asked HIQA to provide advice on the following policy question:
    • “What measures are being taken internationally to support compliance with self-isolation and restricted movement requirements and is there any evidence as to how effective are these measures?”
  • Restriction of movements is defined as separating and restricting the movements of people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 as a precautionary measure in case they have the disease. Restriction of movements means “staying at home”. This is distinct from 'self-isolation' defined as separating those with symptoms of, or diagnosed with COVID-19, from people who are not infected, to prevent transmission. Self-isolation means “staying in your room”.
  • HIQA’s advice was informed by an international review which examined international public health guidance on measures to support those in self-isolation or restriction of movements over five categories:
    • Psychological, addiction and safety measures such as mental health and domestic abuse supports
    • Essential needs support measures such accommodation or food and medicine delivery
    • Financial support measures, such as assistance payments
    • Information measures, such as COVID-19 apps and websites
    • Enforcement measures, such as regulations and fines or penalties incurred for acting outside of those regulations.
  • HIQA provides evidence-based advice to NPHET to inform public health policy, advice and practice in the context of COVID-19. HIQA’s advice is informed by research evidence developed by HIQA’s COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Team.
  • This advice to NPHET is developed with expert input from HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group. HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group is a multidisciplinary group, comprising nominated representatives from the relevant public health and clinical specialties, methodology experts, and public representation.
  • The topics HIQA researches are outlined and prioritised by NPHET to ensure rapid access to the best available evidence relevant to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.