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Patients seeking coronavirus test must now have at least two symptoms

The new measures were announced by Dr Tony Holohan last night.

Image: Shutterstock/Horth Rasur

Updated Mar 25th 2020, 1:07 PM

NEW CRITERIA HAVE been introduced for those seeking testing for Covid-19.

Under new rules, patients will now have to show two major symptoms and be in a particular group in order to be put forward for a test for the coronavirus.

They include those in contact with a confirmed case, healthcare workers, those within vulnerable groups, prison inmates and workers, and those who live in long-term care facilities.

Patients must now have a fever and a symptom of respiratory illness, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, to be tested, as well as the absence of an alternative diagnosis that fully explains their clinical presentation.

In a joint statement, the Irish Medical Organisation and the Irish College of General Practitioners confirmed that those who have not yet been swabbed and don’t have an appointment will now not be tested.

Such patients will be required to re-engage with their GP and the GP will triage the patient again in accordance with the new case definition.

Both groups said they were still seeking clarification regarding patients who have been given a test date but have not yet been tested.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, explained that the new measures had been brought in because the volume of people who have come forward for testing recently has been “very large”, with tests being sought for around 20,000 people  every day for the last 10 days.

“If we were to test at that regime, we would by a considerable distance become the number one country in the world for testing,” he said.

“What that says for us is that a lot of the health seeking behaviour in requests for testing are people who are not appropriate for testing, and we needed to think about focusing our case definition to identify people with a higher probability of having this particular infection.”

The new criteria were introduced following a range of other measures announced by the government to help combat the spread of the virus last night.

They include the extension of school closures until 19 April, the closure of non-essential shops and a requirement for restaurants and cafes to operate take-away only services.

The number of cases of Covid-19 in Ireland now stands at 1,329 and seven people have died from the illness. More than 18,000 tests have already been carried out so far.

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