Level of PCR testing is ‘phenomenal’, says HSE chief

Paul Reid faced multiple questions from TDs and senators about the capacity of the system to cope with rising demand for PCR testing
Level of PCR testing is ‘phenomenal’, says HSE chief

By Dominic McGrath, PA

Ireland’s Covid-19 testing system is “phenomenal”, the head of the HSE has said, amid mounting criticism about delays in accessing appointments.

Appearing before an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday, Paul Reid faced multiple questions about the ability of the system to cope with rising demand for PCR testing.

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane urged the HSE chief to ensure that PCR testing capacity improves.

He said that, in the south-east, people “have to travel if they want to get a PCR test more quickly, outside the entire region”.

“Please focus on the counties and regions where we have a particular problem,” he said.

Mr Reid defended the testing system, calling the scale of people being tested “phenomenal” compared with the population of Ireland.

“We now, over the past seven days, have 210,000 PCR lab tests completed in our labs,” he told the Sinn Féin TD.

“We had our highest day ever just two days ago, with 26,000 tests in the community.”

He said that more than one million PCR tests have been completed in the last six to seven weeks, but insisted that extra staff are being deployed, and the testing service expanded with help from private companies.

Mr Reid said he does accept there have been delays amid a spike in demand.

“I want to fully acknowledge the pressure and demand that’s on it and the delays people will experience,” he said.

But he called on anyone who has symptoms and feels they need to have a test to restrict their movements.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin faced questions in the Dáil about the delays in accessing Covid-19 testing.

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou 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”.

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