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Leah Farrell/

HSE team to review delays with Covid-19 results but 'majority back within four days'

The case definition for testing is expected to be broadened this week.

HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE looking into delays experienced by people tested for Covid-19, but have stressed the majority of results are back within four days. 

Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory at UCD this evening revealed that 214,761 people have been tested for Covid-19 since testing began.

Over the past week, 61,707 tests were carried out and of these 2,280 were positivem giving a positivity rate of 3.7%. 

“From a laboratory turnaround time perspective we’re seeing the majority of people now I would say within maybe two to four days,” De Gascun said. has been made aware of a number of people who were tested but who were left waiting at least a week for their results. In one case, a nursing home employee said she and her colleagues all experienced the same delay – they were later all given negative results.

Today a garda in the east of the country told us he was tested last Tuesday and is still waiting for his result, despite repeated phonecalls to the HSE’s helpline. Another frontline worker – this time a HSE employee – also said she was tested last Tuesday and sill has not received her results today. 

De Gascun said he is conscious that some people have been waiting longer than four days. 

“I think it’s important to get that information because the scale of testing has increased significantly and it’s quite possible that there will be individuals who won’t get a result in that time frame. We need to find out why that is so we can address it, if there is a significant issue that we can address it and make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.

De Gascun said in many cases the result is available in the laboratory but some information may be missing, such as a mobile number or details for a GP. 

“I know for a fact that we don’t have all of those pieces of information for 240,000 cases.”

He said some samples may have been delayed because they need repeat testing, or they came back inconclusive. 

“There are lots of little logistical issues that we need to sort of tease through and any of those could potentially explain a small number of individuals having to wait longer than the started,” he explained.

There is a special team in the HSE now that is looking at all of these because we’re conscious of the fact that there are people who have been waiting and we’re trying to make sure if there is an underlying issue that we can rectify, whether it’s an IT solution, whether it’s a data entry problem, that we can deal with that.

De Gascun said there has been” a significant improvement” in the last two weeks, adding that “the system is getting better all the time”.

Health officials are planning to broaden out the case definition this week – making testing available to a wider section of the general population. 

He said with the number of positive cases each day declining and the positivity rate dropping in the last week to 3.7%, there are some indications that the level of disease in the community has dropped. 

Officials have acknowledged they will likely see a significant increased in people seeking tests once the case definition is changed again.

De Gascun said they are conscious that they “got caught” with delays the last time there was a broad definition in place and capacity at a German laboratory will continue to be used to help ease the burden. 

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