'Individual actions' crucial with testing under pressure due to Omicron wave

The HSE has warned about the limits of Covid-19 testing as a measure to control or measure transmission during the Omicron surge of infections, despite plans to significantly increase testing capacity
'Individual actions' crucial with testing under pressure due to Omicron wave

The HSE has warned about the limits of Covid-19 testing as a measure to control or measure transmission during the Omicron surge of infections, despite plans to significantly increase testing capacity.

The HSE’s lead of testing and tracing said there were plans to increase capacity to be able to distribute up to 300,000 antigen tests per week from next week, up from 100,000, with new data suggesting almost half of tests are returning positive results.

Damien McCallion said testing systems would “have limits”, due to the rising number of Omicron cases.

“Those are huge numbers and clearly every testing system is going to have limits, and if the disease is as widespread as it would appear it is at the moment, then the public health guidelines become more important than testing as a control measure,” he said.

Testing

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said “as we approach this level of disease, the power of testing to identify all cases followed by the triggering of public health actions diminishes".

He added: “While testing remains important, its value as a control mechanism across the whole population is reduced and the focus shifts to individual actions people must take to reduce transmission.”

One source told The Irish Times that the level of positivity was "keel-over territory".

A total of 6,735 new cases were confirmed on Monday, while officials believe thousands of cases are going undiagnosed.

On Monday afternoon, appointments for PCR tests were unavailable in every county.

A  senior Government source told The Irish Times they were encouraged by hospitalisation data from South Africa, Denmark, Norway and the US.

Meanwhile, GPs have said that preliminary indications with Omicron are that those infected are not falling as ill as they did in previous waves.

Dr Denis McCauley, chairman of the GP committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said “the evidence on the ground is we are not seeing an awful lot of very sick people, which is great, and long may it last".

However, senior health sources said more restrictions cannot be ruled out due to the sheer volume of infection at the moment.

These could include limiting the number of households that can meet together indoors.

 

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