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Irish Covid-19 testing system among best in Europe - HSE

The head of the HSE is defending our coronavirus testing system, saying it is among the best in Europe.

There are now almost 23,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases here and 1,458 people have lost their lives.

Our testing capacity has improved drastically over the past few weeks but the issue now is the turnaround time between being tested and receiving results.

The HSE says it is taking on average 2.4 days but many doctors and patients say it is longer than that.

"Overall if you look at the testing that we are carrying out in Ireland - and this is not to be defensive - we are in the top five or six in the EU 27 countries continuously," said Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE.

We now have 50 test centres nationwide, 40 labs and 1,700 people doing contact tracing.

There is capacity there to carry out up to 13,000 tests a day but the Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory say there is only around a quarter of that demand at present.

Cillian de Gascun says there are signs the latest figures are moving in the right direction.

"Generally speaking, we are looking at the number of cases coming down, we are looking at the number of patients in intensive care coming down," said Dr de Gascun.

Meanwhile Paul Reid says he is concerned about the knock on effect of the crisis will have on non-Covid patients like those with cancer or heart conditions.

From today hospitals are now beginning to carry out non-urgent surgeries which had been deferred because of the pandemic.