A senior HSE official has questioned a claim from the Fianna Fail leader that 51,000 people are awaiting swab testing for coronavirus.
Micheal Martin outlined the figure after he and other opposition leaders were given an official briefing on the Covid-19 crisis.
He said 53,000 tests had been completed in Ireland to date but 51,000 people were awaiting appointments for swabs to be taken.
Later, at the National Public Health Emergency Team media conference, Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, disputed the figure.
Asked about the 51,000 figure, he replied: “I don’t know where that came from.”
Dr Henry said Ireland has the capacity to meet the current demand for tests but that the processing of results had been hampered by a lack of chemical reagents required to analyse samples in labs.
Mr Martin and other party leaders attended a briefing with HSE chief executive Paul Reid and Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, on Thursday afternoon.
Afterwards, the Fianna Fail leader said Ireland has “not quite” reached the peak of the outbreak yet.
“We are making progress as a country in terms of dealing with this,” he added.
“The areas of most concern that were articulated, that I would have raised of course, were the ongoing issues around PPE, the situation in relation to nursing homes, and the entire situation around testing.
“There’s about 53,000 tests that have been completed to date. There’s about 51,000 people awaiting appointments for swab taking and it seems to be that there’s still a significant degree of work to be done on the testing front.
“What was identified was a lab capacity issue in terms of both procuring more labs, there were earlier issues with various component parts of the testing process.”
I'm concerned there in terms of underpinning and giving supports to our nursing homeMicheal Martin
Mr Martin added: “We are not as a country where I would like to be in terms of the volume of testing and the turnaround in terms of testing. The objective is to get to a tighter turnaround in 48 hours.
“From today’s briefing we would be in the top five within the European Union in terms of the volume of people who have been tested.”
Mr Martin said there was a lot of focus in the briefing on coronavirus outbreaks in 137 nursing home settings in Ireland.
“I’m concerned there in terms of underpinning and giving supports to our nursing home,” he said.