The Health Service Executive was warned in November 2019 by the health watchdog HIQA that its computerised infectious disease reporting management system needed to be "fit for purpose" for future demands.

Towards the end of last year, the CIDR system was unable to handle daily Covid-19 cases exceeding around 2,000 and a significant backlog of reporting cases developed.

This week, health officials defended the system and said that a fix had now been applied to the system and that it could now handle the case numbers currently being reported.

The HIQA report into the management of the CIDR was published in November 2019 and said:

"It is essential that there are 'fit for purpose' information systems in place to support the delivery of public health services into the future. CIDR would be one element of this system; it is Ireland's national system for the surveillance of notifiable infectious diseases. It is therefore essential that CIDR adapts and evolves to meet the requirements and challenges of a changing public health system."

HIQA found that the system had not evolved sufficiently to meet the increasing demands of a modern infectious disease surveillance system.

The HIQA report, published four months before the first Covid-19 case was officially reported here, found that: "Strategic development of CIDR is not discussed at any of the higher level groups within the HSE and there is no forum to routinely bring together all CIDR stakeholders to discuss strategic issues, including those relating to information management."

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, over 30,000 infectious disease were being reported a year to the CIDR system, which was set up in 2004.

The HIQA report said that owing to the importance of the data captured in CIDR and the requirement to use this data for a wide variety of purposes, it was essential that the information held in CIDR was comprehensive and of the highest possible quality.

HIQA also identified the need for a number of improvements in relation to the governance, leadership and management of CIDR by the HSE.