Public health chiefs have voiced concern that a large number of people are failing to appear for Covid-19 tests after being in close contact with a confirmed case.
Health Service Executive boss Paul Reid warned the number of close contacts have increased by more than 55% in the last week, from just over two to 5.4 for each case.
Speaking at the HSE briefing, Mr Reid said around 20-25% of people are not showing up for their day zero test, however this rises significantly to 50% of people missing the day seven test.
He warned: “It’s really important to stress here that a person may identify as a negative test on day zero, but a quite real potential to test positive on the day seven.
The likelihood of you testing positive having been in contact with a positive case is much higherPaul Reid, HSE
“We strongly advise everybody to come forward, it’s really important you play a part for yourself, for your family, for the wider public, for society, and stopping the spread and second surge.”
He said that in most cases people say they will attend an appointment when contacted by the contact tracing team, however they fail to appear for the scheduled test.
Mr Reid added: “In some cases people are saying they feel fine, they feel that they don’t have symptoms and don’t have to go. The calls with those people are taking much longer than they did in the past, a call is taking double, sometimes triple the amount of time.
“The likelihood of you testing positive having been in contact with a positive case is much higher.”
Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, said people are not the best judge themselves on whether they need a test.
He said: “If you are a close contact, you could be positive even if you have no symptoms.
“If you have no symptoms and are positive but don’t get tested, you are at risk of passing that virus on to other people, who are in turn at risk of passing it on if they are asymptotic – and that is called a cluster, which becomes an outbreak which eventually becomes uncontrolled community transmission.
If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, loss or change in taste or smell - even if these are mild, you should call your doctor about getting tested for #COVID19 as soon as possible. #InThisTogether #StaySafe pic.twitter.com/OjlBrgiZv0— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) July 21, 2020
“That is all traced back to individual responsibility and behaviours.”
Dr Henry also said the “greatest enabler” of reopening schools and the health services is low community transmission, while the “greatest obstacle” is uncontrolled community transmission.
The health chief said there have been “very significant and worrying” trends over the last week to 10 days.
He said that in the 14-day period to July 18 there were 267 confirmed cases – compared to 155 in the previous fortnight.
The rate of infection per 100,000 people increased from 2.5 to 5.61 in two weeks.
The median age is now 33, with around 70% of cases involving people under 45.
The majority of cases are in Dublin, Kildare and Cork.
GP referrals have also increased by 20% for each week over the previous two weeks.
Meanwhile, Mr Reid said almost 1.4 million people have downloaded the Covid-19 tracker app.
He said: “Ninety-one people have been alerted that they were in close contact as a result of having downloaded and registered with the app. That’s an important aspect for us in our testing and tracing process.”
The COVID Tracker app is now available to download. It will help in the fight against coronavirus. Download the COVID Tracker app here: https://t.co/CUrWQ9QVvj— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) July 7, 2020
Weâll protect your privacy, and youâll help us protect everyone. Stay safe. Protect each other. #COVID19 #StaySafe pic.twitter.com/WVRFOUwAT7
He also said health services are being reopened over three phases – firstly from July to August, phase two from September to November, and phase three from December to February 2021.
Mr Reid warned a reduction in capacity will mean health services will be slower and take longer to complete.
He said this year’s winter plan will be one “like we’ve never seen before”.
He added: “It will need an investment like we have never seen before. This is a winter where we can’t afford to see some of the experiences, whether it was trolleys or otherwise, that we’ve had in the past.”
Anne O’Connor, the HSE’s chief operations officer, said the HSE is currently supporting 1,015 long-term residential care centres.
One of these facilities continues to be a significant risk while six still need a significant amount of support, Ms O’Connor added.
“We have 890 in the white category. We still have a high level of activity of PPE deliveries. Over the past week we have delivered 7.5 million items,” she continued.
“That continues to be a logistical challenge as we deliver to over 400 sites on a daily basis.”