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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C

Concern that delays in testing process could impact on lifting of restrictions

Mary Favier of the ICGP pointed out that the later results are confirmed the less valuable they are in terms of stopping the disease.

THERE IS CONCERN about continued delays in the test, trace, isolate process for Covid-19 in Ireland, with just one week to go before the country is supposed to begin easing restrictions.

Yesterday HSE CEO Paul Reid said the average turnaround time from when swab is taken to a person receiving results is two to four days, but he acknowledged some people are waiting longer.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mary Favier, President of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said that while test results are coming back more quickly than previously, in her practice a week ago it was taking seven days on average. However she said two cases she referred last Thursday were back to her yesterday.

Favier said it is taking a week or more to get from the initial referral to the completion of contact tracing and there is “evidence that the later it goes before you actually start to chase up those positive results, the less effective that is and the less valuable it is in terms of how useful you are to stop the disease”.

She said there is concern that these kinds of delays could slow the easing of restrictions.

“We do need a robust testing and tracing system so that we can ease the restrictions. But the replication rate, the amount of new virus in the community is going down so the service is working, but it can always be better.

“I think now we’ve got a good baseline service going in but it’s now looking after those difficult cases to really look at and break down why it is that some cases are taking so long. What is unique to those?”

The ICGP has been asking members to tell them of delays and she said they have been working with the HSE to look at where the problems are. She said they are addressing each individual case and have set up a helpline and email service for GPs to report these cases.

She said she thinks the health service will be able to manage the capacity target of 15,000 tests per day by next week.

“If there’s any increase in virus activity GPs will very quickly see that. GPs in general see a change in symptoms about two weeks before they present to hospitals so we’ll be able to report that back to the HSE to say we’re seeing more symptoms around.”

Yesterday Paul Reid said he will commission a report next week that will examine how to develop a sustainable model for testing and contact tracing in the future.

The HSE intends to roll out its contact tracing app by the end of this month.

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