Ireland has introduced new rules for people seeking testing for coronavirus.
Patients requesting a test will now have to display two major symptoms – a fever and at least one sign of respiratory disease, like a cough or shortness of breath – before they are referred.
People will also have to fall into a particular group to be tested.
This includes those in contact with a confirmed case, healthcare workers, vulnerable groups and those who live in long-term care facilities.
Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said: “What’s clear is that the volume of people who are seeking testing has been very large and there has been a very significant increase in the number of people coming forward.
Weâve also introduced new measures to help those who have lost or will lose their jobs as a consequence of the emergency & a scheme to ensure that many others do not and remain on the payroll rather than being laid off. #COVIDã¼19 #COVID19Ireland pic.twitter.com/63XTfcFORc— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) March 24, 2020
“Over the last 10 days something in the order of 20,000 people a day have sought testing.
“If we were to test at that regime we would, by a considerable distance, become the number one country in the world for testing.”
He said a lot of people requesting tests are not appropriate for it.
He went on: “We needed to think about focusing our case definition to identify people with a higher probability of having this particular infection.”
Around 1,300 tests are being performed in Ireland every day and that is expected to rise to around 3,000 a day by next week, and to around 16,000 daily in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, Irish premier Leo Varadkar introduced a number of sweeping measures to tackle coronavirus, including restricting all public gatherings to four people.
The Taoiseach said all non-essential retailers should close, as well as all theatres, clubs and bingo halls, and people should work from home unless that is not possible and their role is absolutely essential.
Urging everyone to stay at home to slow the spread of Covid-19, Mr Varadkar said the public has to do more to flatten the curve of the outbreak.
It is heartening to see how the people of Ireland have embraced the measures needed to interrupt #COVID19.— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) March 24, 2020
We are now in the crucial weeks of our response. New measures announced today are being implemented to save lives.
Read them. Know them. Act now. https://t.co/6nu04ERiHR
The measures were introduced as the seventh coronavirus-linked death was confirmed. The victim was a male from the east of the country with an underlying health condition.
There were 204 new cases confirmed in the state on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,329.
Mr Varadkar said all sporting events, even those behind closed doors, are cancelled.
Meanwhile, parents have been told they will not pay creche fees during the coronavirus crisis.
Measures are to be unveiled that will see the Government pay the wages of staff in creches.
Early Childhood Ireland welcomed the Government’s announcement of the support package.
The support package will see the wages of childcare workers effectively paid by the State for the next 12 weeks with an additional payment to providers to meet some of the ongoing running costs.
Frances Byrne, director of policy and advocacy at Early Childhood Ireland, said: “In the last few weeks, we raised serious concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on our sector.
“We are pleased the Government took our concerns on board and acted promptly to protect jobs and ensure parents will be guaranteed their existing childcare places, once this crisis ends.
“This is recognition of the importance of the sector for children, families and the economy, and emphasises the important role of professional childcare staff, and the essential contribution they make.
“There are 30,000 people working in the early years sector, providing care to 200,000 babies and children.
“It comes as a relief to providers, staff and parents that with this package jobs will be protected for the next 12 weeks, with 70% of verified staff costs to be covered by Revenue, and the remaining 30% by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.”