I wish to advise the Deputy that the pandemic is not over, and the future trajectory of COVID-19 remains uncertain. As such, there is an ongoing requirement for detailed epidemiological assessment and advice on current and emergent issues in relation to SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses to inform and ensure timely and appropriate health service and other pandemic countermeasures as necessary.
As set out in the weekly reports on COVID-19 which I receive from the Chief Medical Officer and which are published on my Department's website, the population and health service burden in relation to COVID-19 infections continues to be monitored closely across a broad range of parameters. These include surveillance and monitoring of the epidemiological position both nationally and internationally, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths, surveillance in relation to current and new variants and assessment of health service impacts, including disease outbreaks in healthcare settings.
In addition to the burden of disease caused by acute COVID-19 infections, it is recognised that persistent and prolonged symptoms can occur after acute COVID-19 infection in a proportion of patients. The number of people that are affected with longer term sequelae after acute COVID-19 remains unknown, but published reports indicate that approximately 10– 20% of COVID-19 patients experience lingering symptoms for weeks to months following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection.
My Department and the HSE, continue to review new evidence, research, and data on all aspects of COVID19 including Long COVID, as it emerges to ensure care is in place for all who need it.
The HSE has developed and is implementing an interim Model of Care to provide Long COVID services nationally. This builds on existing service provision to further develop the necessary services across a number of health care settings including GP, community services and acute hospitals. The first priority is to ensure there are Long COVID and Post-Acute COVID clinics operating within each Hospital Group to ensure a national service. This involves expanding the resources at existing clinics where required and development of new clinics in line with the Model of Care.
Anyone concerned about Long COVID is advised to engage with their GP in the first instance.