The acting director of public health said the massive demand for Covid-19 testing has led to long waiting times.
Dr. Ann Sheehan said those seeking a Covid-19 PCR test could face longer wait times for appointments because there is currently «high demand» for the service.
She said, however, that those showing symptoms of Covid-19 need to act as if they are confirmed positive and isolate while they wait to be tested regardless.
«Public health advice has not changed and we need to recognize that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the previous variants. However, it appears to cause less serious disease but we are monitoring the data that will advise us.»
A Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH) spokesperson said that due to the rise in Covid-19 positive rates, community testing centers are «fully operating».
“We are asking people seeking to book a test to check back online later as there may be a slot available.
“We monitor testing on an ongoing basis and reserve slots for GP referrals or close contacts, which may become publicly available for reservation later in the day or until the end of the next day.
If a person has symptoms or if someone cannot get to an appointment on our self-referral portal, we ask them first and foremost to contact their GP.
«Tests are scheduled in the shortest possible time frame usually within 24/48 hours. Currently, results are released within 48 hours. We cannot provide tests to people without an appointment.»
HSE said it is sending antigen test kits to people designated as close contact – those who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 – which can be used for testing at home if and to do so fully vaccinated against Covid19. They have no symptoms of Covid-19.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you will receive a text message. This will include a link to a website where you can upload the contact details of your nearby contacts. If you are not using the website, the contact tracker will contact you to collect details. pic.twitter.com/ah0WQsPc5t
– HSE Ireland (HSELive) December 31, 2021
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on health David Cullilane called on the government to make antigen testing widely and freely available to ease pressure on the PCR testing system.
The Omicron variant is now prevalent in communities across the state. The sudden rise in case numbers is putting an unprecedented strain on the PCR testing system.
HSE’s current capacity is 300,000 tests per week. That’s 6% of the population getting tested every week.
But we are approaching our full potential, or reaching our full potential, and the system is struggling to deal with the unprecedented demands being placed upon it.
So it is clear that we must now focus more on antigen testing.
“One third of cases positive through PCR followed a positive antigen test. This is all the more reason to see greater use of antigen testing, and to make it available for free.”
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