The great demand for Covid-19 tests has led to long waiting times, said the acting director of public health.
Dr. Anne Sheahan said those looking for a Covid-19 PCR test may have longer waiting times for appointments as there is currently “great demand” for the service.
However, she said those who develop symptoms of Covid-19 must pretend they’ve been confirmed positive and isolate themselves while waiting for a test anyway.
“The public health recommendations haven’t changed and we have to acknowledge that the Omicron variant is much more portable than previous variants. However, it seems to cause less serious illness, but we are monitoring the data that will advise us, ”she said.
A spokesman for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH) said the community’s testing centers are “operating at full capacity” due to the rise in positive Covid-19 rates.
“We ask people who would like to book a test to check it out online later, as a slot may have become free.
“We continuously monitor the tests and reserve time slots for referring GPs or close contacts that may be available to the public later in the day or until the end of the next day.
If a person has symptoms or does not have access to an appointment on our self-referral portal, we ask them to contact their general practitioner in the first place.
“Tests are scheduled in the shortest possible time, usually within 24/48 hours. Currently, results are returned within 48 hours. We cannot offer tests for people without an appointment. ”
The HSE said it was sending antigen test kits to people named as close contacts – those who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 – that can be used to test at home, if they are fully vaccinated against Covid19 and do not have symptoms of Covid-19.
If you test positive for COVID-19 you will receive an SMS. This contains a link to a website where you can upload the contact details of your close contacts. If you are not using the website, a contact tracer will call you to collect the details. pic.twitter.com/ah0WQsPc5t
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) December 31, 2021
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane urged the government to make antigen testing widely and freely available to ease pressure on the PCR testing system.
The Omicron variant is now widely used in communities across the state. The rise in the number of cases is putting unprecedented pressure on the PCR test system.
“The current HSE capacity is 300,000 tests per week. That’s 6% of the population that is tested every week.
“But we’re approaching or at full capacity, and the system is struggling to cope with the unprecedented demands that are placed on it.
“It is therefore clear that we now have to rely much more heavily on antigen tests.
“One third of positive cases from a PCR followed a positive antigen test. This is one more reason to make greater use of antigen tests and make them freely available, ”he said.