People in Ireland must now display two main symptoms of the coronavirus and fall into one of the priority groups in order to get tested.
The symptoms include a fever and either a cough or shortness of breath.
The change is because the official definition for the disease in an Irish context had been changed. The National Public Health Emergency Team yesterday recommended that the Government adopt the World Health Organisation case definition for Covid-19: ‘A patient with fever and at least one sign of respiratory disease e.g. cough, shortness of breath’.
Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said: “Priority groups for testing include close contacts of a confirmed case with symptoms, healthcare workers with symptoms and people who are vulnerable with symptoms.
“Whether you are tested or not, the advice remains the same; if you have any symptoms, assume you have Covid-19 and isolate yourself for 14 days to help stop the spread of this disease. Household contacts of a suspected case should restrict their contacts for 14 days.”
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said: “We are now in the crucial weeks of our response to Covid-19. All actions we take are based on epidemiological evidence and in proportion to our experience on this island.
“As we learn more about this disease, we are prioritising who will be tested. If you are not in a priority group, you might not be tested. However, if you have the symptoms, assume you have Covid-19 and isolate yourself.”
Analysis by the NPHET of public health contact tracing has shown that the average number of close contacts per confirmed case has decreased from more than 20 to the region of five contacts.
They said it shows that people are following health advice and actively limiting the amount of people they engage with.