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Dublin Airport test centre expecting rise in Christmas demand as people get tested before visiting loved ones

The test centre at Dublin Airport is open to anyone who wishes to take a test.

Testing being carried out at the drive-thru test centre at Dublin Airport today.
Testing being carried out at the drive-thru test centre at Dublin Airport today.
Image: Sam Boal

DUBLIN AIRPORT’S NEW Covid-19 test centre expects to see an increase in demand in the run up to Christmas due to people choosing to get tested prior to visiting loved ones during the festive season.

The drive-thru test centre situated next to Dublin Airport opened for business today, with a steady flow of people turning up to be tested.

A walk-in facility for those without a car will open this weekend. Testing facilities are already open at Cork and Shannon Airports.

It’s expected that a few hundred people a day will be tested at the Express Green Long Term Car Park where the test facility is situated.

Passengers flying in and out of the country are expected to avail of the testing centre under the new travel regulations set out in the EU traffic light system.

However, the testing facility is open to anyone who wishes to take a test.

Christmas time

With talk turning to Christmas, David Rock, the Chief executive of RocDoc – the private company which offers the service, said he fully expects to see a pick up in the numbers in the run up to Christmas, as people make plans to visit family and friends over the holidays.

Speaking about a testing facility the company also has open in Ashbourne, he said they are already seeing people with no Covid-19 symptoms attend to take a test for peace of mind.

“Yes, certainly, from the Ashbourne Centre, we’re finding there’s an awful lot of people doing that at the moment, where they have to go or want to go see their loved ones maybe before they pass away, or because they are critically ill, or for whatever other reason and they’re coming into us as a precautionary measure,” he aid.

“We see that possibly increasing during the Christmas time,” he said.

While initially the testing centre can handle a few hundred tests per day, capacity is being ramped up to carry out 12,000 tests per day, if needed.

“We were very keen to have this open before Christmas, because we don’t want Covid to spread in this country. We want to keep it under control. We feel testing is the best way to do that. That’s why we work with these test centres all over the country,” he said.

While opening hours are currently between 9am and 3pm, the company is looking to extend the hours if there is a surge in business before Christmas.

testing 556 The drive-thru test centre is operated by private healthcare company Rocdoc. Source: Sam Boal

The drive-thru service for PCR tests costing €129. Again, it will take between one and two days for a result from PCR tests to be returned. 

Currently PCR tests – the standard Covid test, usually using a nasal swab – are the only type of test recognised by Irish health authorities. 

HSE testing capacity is not affected by the new centre. If someone tests positive at the centre, the HSE is informed of the positive case for tracing purposes.

Rock said it has the capacity should people choose to take a test before travelling home for the Christmas to spend time with their loved ones.

The Rocdoc facility will also offer LAMP testing, which is not yet recognised in Ireland in terms of international travel, but which has a shorter turnaround time. 

Other EU countries operate different testing regimes and travellers are urged to check the requirements for their destination country.

The National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) is currently carrying out a validation process on LAMP testing, it is understood. If approved by the Department of Health, the new test could be incorporated into Ireland’s testing regime. 

RocDoc will be offering LAMP tests priced between €149 and €159. 

However, it is hoped that the cost of testing will reduce as demand increases, said Rock.

The company wants to get the test down well below €100 over the next few months, he said.

He said the company is also looking at rolling out antigen testing in the future.

Net week, the government is due to set out how it plans to go about lifting Level 5 restrictions and also outline what measures might be in place for Christmas this year.

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The Taoiseach has already indicated that it will largely come down to personal responsibility and choice.

In terms of international travel, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said if people do need to travel home to see their family this Christmas they should follow the rules set out under the EU traffic light travel plan.

Speaking to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny, the health minister said there are two different parts to the government advice around international travel and Christmas, which he believes the public understand.

“The first part of the message is we’re in the middle of the biggest pandemic in 100 years… so the public health advice is if you don’t have to travel… in the middle of a global pandemic, which is causing so much hurt and pain and cost for everybody, then don’t.”

“The second part of the message is, however, if you do need to travel, and that includes if you haven’t seen your family, and if you do need to come home and see your family at Christmas, then there is a clear traffic light system in place with protocols you need to follow,” said Donnelly.

“I think that is a pretty common sense approach,” he said.

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