Covid: 3,666 new cases as Government comes under pressure over testing capacity

Opposition parties have called on the Health Minister to appear before the Dail to answer questions about reported delays in accessing PCR tests.
Covid: 3,666 new cases as Government comes under pressure over testing capacity

By Dominic McGrath, PA

The State has recorded a further 3,666 new cases of Covid-19 as opposition parties have called on the Health Minister to appear before the Dáil over reported delays in accessing Covid-19 tests.

As Tuesday morning, there were 638 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 130 were in ICU.

Speaking about the latest figures, Dr Tony Holohan urged people to make a collective effort to curb the spread of the virus.

“We know that the level of worry has increased to levels last seen in April this year.

“We know what we are asking people to do to help suppress the spread of disease in our communities is very difficult. If we all make a concerted effort it can make a difference.”

The CMO also advised anyone with cold or flu like symptoms to isolate immediately and get a PCR test, not an antigen test.

His advice comes amid increasing pressure on the Government over the availability of PCR tests for people who need them.

Testing capacity

Earlier on Tuesday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, as well as other opposition TDs, said Stephen Donnelly has questions to answer about testing capacity across the country.

The Government successfully resisted the proposal, defeating it in a vote on Tuesday afternoon.

However, it faced a charge of leaving people across the country unable to access a Covid-19 test.

 

Ms McDonald told the Dáil: “There are serious questions now arising right across the state in relation to testing capacity. I know that people couldn’t book a PCR test yesterday in Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny and Waterford. And we’re getting similar reports from across the country.

“Meanwhile, the Government is dithering still on antigen testing.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said people “can’t get a PCR test for love nor money in Dublin”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who earlier faced accusations that the Government has failed to provide enough beds and staff to support hospitals during the fourth wave of the pandemic, rejected the concerns raised by TDs.

“I think some of the language is out of order,” he said.

 

“I would respectfully suggest there needs to be a greater sense of giving a positive message to the public as well about what has been achieved.”

He said 207,000 people have been tested in the last seven days.

“I think there’s a bit of a game thing going on, I would regret.”

The PA news agency contacted the HSE for a response.

In a lengthy reply, a spokesman said: “We have seen a sustained, extremely high demand for Covid-19 testing at our community testing centres in the last number of weeks in particular.

“This reflects the high prevalence of the disease and other illnesses at this time.

“The community testing service was established initially to support the delivery of 15,000 tests per day; the service has a number of additional measures which we have implemented to increase that daily testing figure for peak periods to 20,000 tests per day.

“Over the last number of weeks we have consistently carried out more than 20,000 tests per day, and yesterday, Monday November 22, was our busiest day to date in community testing with over 26,000 appointments offered in test centres.

“In recent days it has been particularly busy in test centres across the country; however, we monitor test appointment slots continually throughout the day and slots often do become available later in the day or the following day.”

The spokesman said the HSE is working with private company RocDoc to provide testing at Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports.

“We are continuing to recruit additional staff to our community test centres. We are also working to put further additional external resources in place to increase our testing capacity, including potentially other private service providers,” he said.

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