COVID-19: A Notifiable Disease – Guidance for Medical Practitioners
06 March 2020
Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, signed the ‘Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Regulations 2020’ in February this year to include the coronavirus COVID-19 on the list of notifiable diseases. This means that medical practitioners will be required to notify the Director of Public Health/Medical Officer of Health for the area of residence of the patient when a case of coronavirus is diagnosed.
All medical practitioners, including clinical directors of diagnostic laboratories, are subject to the notification requirements and failure to comply would be a breach of the regulations. The information gathered can be used to investigate cases and prevent the spread of infection.
Know your obligations
When to notify
Medical practitioners must notify the relevant officer ‘as soon as he becomes aware or suspects’ that a person the medical practitioner is treating is suffering from or is the carrier of COVID-19.
Clinical directors of diagnostic laboratories must notify as soon as COVID-19 is identified in the laboratory.
Who to notify
The Director of Public Health or the Medical Officer of Health in the local Department of Public Health.
The website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has a list of who to notify here
How to notify
In writing, by email or by telephone. There is a standard notification form that should be completed. This is available on the HPSC website here
Laboratory notifications should be made through the Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting System.
Confidentiality and data protection
As COVID-19 is a notifiable disease and notification is a legal obligation, medical practitioners will not be in breach of data protection legislation in sharing the required notification information with the authorities. A patient with coronavirus should however be advised of the medical practitioner’s statutory duty to provide certain personal details to the Medical Officer of Health.
As further global spread of COVID-19 is to be expected, we are keeping up-to-date with all developments in this area. Medical practitioners should be alert to Government advice regarding COVID-19 along with updates from the World Health Organisation.
If you would like to discuss the legal obligations in the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19, please contact our Healthcare & Medical or Public, Regulatory and Investigations team who will be able to assist you.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.