Enhanced contact tracing will aid in the uncovering of secret super-spreader events, such as family parties and social gatherings, which are fuelling the stubborn levels of Covid infection.  
The new regime of tracing cases back seven days is finding missing links explaining why infection numbers are not falling faster.
Dr Una Fallon, Director of Public Health, HSE Midlands, said the new process, which was added to the national contact-tracing protocol just last week, would help reveal previously hidden information.
It has already alerted public health in her area to a positive case who had been at a family party involving around 15 people.
Theres a lot of testing around it now and there will be knock-on tentacles, said Dr Fallon.
Its early days but source investigation might uncover what you might call super-spreader events; an event like a party or people who have been to a shebeen or a big household gathering.
I think we are missing that currently. I dont think people volunteer that [information], but we probed and asked… I think that is the advantage of what the contact tracers are doing now.
Plans for contact tracers to identify the source of Covid-19 outbreaks in the community came into practice on Wednesday of last week after several months of delay.
Due to the surge in cases over the New Year period, the HSE said it had not been feasible at that time.
But now, contract-tracing centres are asking people with Covid who are categorised under community transmission about settings and events that they have attended going back seven days.
The aim of source identification is to gather information on community transmission cases, where the source of the infection is unknown.
It involves asking a series of questions in order to build a more accurate picture of where people are contracting the virus.
It can help with early treatment and to stop the spread to other areas and more people.
Ive been thinking about what we are going to pick up from this (source investigation by contact tracers) that we dont know already, said Dr Fallon.
I think its going to be that congregate socialising that super-spreader event that happens, and is then over.
If you can imagine a school, a creche or a factory outbreak, that isnt something thats happened, and then its over. But a funeral is really something that happens, then its over and its not going to happen again. And the party is something that happens and is over. So, I feel that those sort of events, the system doesnt really pick them up and this new source investigation might do that.
In the midlands, Dr Fallon and her team are mainly seeing what is described as household transmission.
The most important thing for people to remember is that your home is really the most frequent source of a new case, she said.
Thats because if one person in the home becomes a case, they have a kind of special definition. Theyre not ordinary close contacts, they are household close contacts. They really have a very high chance of becoming a case. Its very different to any one person that you might have spent more than 15 minutes with at a distance of less than two metres.
At present, if you have five in your home and one person becomes a case, then two out of the other four will probably become a case.
It might have been one before, but now its two and thats because of the new variant. Its hard to prevent those cases but what we can prevent is the case that gets into the house in the first place.
Offaly still has by far the highest infection rate in the country, followed by counties Donegal and Dublin, the latest Covid-19 figures show.
The 14-day incidence rate in Offaly is most pronounced in the Tullamore area.
However, a walk-in test centre for those without symptoms has meant that more people have been tested in Tullamore than in many other parts of the country.
Dr Fallon said one of the drivers of this weeks figures is testing close contacts of a confirmed case on day 10, particularly household contacts.
She said about 40pc of household contacts of a confirmed B117 case end up becoming cases themselves, compared to around 20pc of household contacts during the first and second waves.
The day-10 testing of close contacts, on foot of two big outbreaks, is driving the numbers (in Offaly) this week, Dr Fallon said.
On top of that, weve had the walk-in test centre where weve done approximately 300 tests per day. This has basically doubled the amount of testing in Co Offaly.
Weve tested about 5pc of our population in one week, which is enormous. So we are picking up cases that we otherwise wouldnt have detected before.
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