The testing criteria for COVID-19 is being significantly widened and will no longer be restricted to priority groups.
From today, people may be referred for testing for the virus if they have one of three key symptoms of the disease; a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
The move has been welcomed by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) whose President, Cork based-GP, Dr Mary Favier, said the move was “a necessary step as restrictions are easing.”
Dr Favier said that we need to be able to track the virus saying “the wider we can cast the net the better.”
The Cork GP added: “We are increasingly confident the systems the HSE have put in place will be able to accommodate and manage the ramping up in the number of tests performed each week.”
However, Dr Favier cautioned that as we increase the number of tests, "it is critically important that contact tracing is timely and appropriately organised in order to deal with the anticipated rise. If a test result is positive, Public Health must ensure they quickly trace that person’s contacts so that we are then managing the ongoing spread of the disease.”
The ICGP’s Lead Adviser on COVID-19, Cork based GP Dr Nuala O’Connor said that the advice to patients waiting for test results for COVID-19 does not change.
“We emphasise that patients should contact their GP for advice if they are feeling unwell, and self-isolate for 14 days.
“Confirming a diagnosis of a COVID-19 by testing does not affect the advice to patients on how to recover. Your GP is the best person to advise you if you are concerned that you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Please do contact your GP by phone if you are concerned. The GP can decide if you meet the criteria for testing. Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 needs to self-isolate for 14 days and their household contacts need to restrict their movements,” she said.
Household contacts who develop symptoms must also be tested.
Meanwhile, Dr O’Connor urged people to continue to practice social distancing and wash their hands to help limit the spread of the virus in the community.
“Your personal actions can save a life. This is more important as restrictions start to be lifted,” she said.