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LEAH FARRELL
pcr testing

Walk-in Covid testing to be introduced in areas with high virus rates

“We’re targeting the virus where we know it is,” the health minister said.

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has announced that walk-in PCR Covid-19 testing will shortly be introduced in areas where the rate of coronavirus infections is high.

Donnelly said people will be able to avail of a test, without a referral from a doctor, in parts of the country that have very high incidences of the disease.

“We’re targeting the virus where we know it is,” Donnelly told reporters today.

Other measures designed to combat the virus, listed by the health minister, included further increasing biosecurity measures at the border, to protect against variants, and continuing with the vaccination programme.

“Essentially the public health strategy is target the virus, suppress the virus, use walk-in PCR testing, deploy antigen testing. We need to continue to see that very strong, very visible enforcement from An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Engage with the third level sector, engage with employers and really work with people to drive down the interactions that are leading to this increase in cases.

“If we do that we buy ourselves more time, because really that’s what we’re trying to do. The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccines. They are incredibly effective. We’ve seen astonishingly positive results in places like health care settings and nursing homes,” he added.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests identify whether someone is currently infected with Covid-19. They are usually done by taking samples with a nose and throat swab which is then sent to a lab for processing.

Speaking this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the work of the Irish people has been effective in bringing Covid-19 numbers down, stating that the majority of people in his view, are adhering to the restrictions.

He said there has been a flattening of the case numbers which government are concerned about. He said the vaccination programme is working in the sense of the impact on mortality of those vaccinated.

Supply will increase in April, May and June and that is something they will factor into their decision-making. He would not speculate on what will be eased next week, stating that the key objective now is to “avoid a fourth wave”, adding that numbers are going up in other countries.

The Taoiseach said he understood that people are tired and fatigued, but said their hard work had yielded results, and that would be taken on board as well.

Martin also hit out at those advocating a zero Covid strategy, stating that some politicians who had spoken in favour of it in the past were now becoming more muted on the topic.

He said if such a strategy was pursued by government it would involve a “much longer lockdown” than is already happening. “This idea you can do it all in eight weeks, I think is disingenuous,” he said.

This evening, health officials announced 371 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and 24 new deaths from the disease.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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