A plan to scale up coronavirus testing and tracing every week is being launched on Monday, Ireland’s health chief said.
The Department of Health has set a target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per week, which the Health Service Executive (HSE) hopes to reach by the middle of next month.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said ramping up testing and tracing is a “key part” of the strategy to enable restrictions to be lifted once it is decided and recommended by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and approved by Government.
He said: “This will involve a major plan to scale up our capacity and make some changes in processes, put some new community testing centres in place and ultimately deliver a higher volume.”
My weekly message to staff in HSE. Updates on Testing in Long Term Care Homes, Clinical Assessment Hubs, Use of Masks & Mental Health Supports. I remain very proud of the work of all staff in the HSE and the wider healthcare teams. Thank you all. @HSELive #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/DBZfm73uNs— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) April 27, 2020
Mr Reid also said that the primary focus has been testing staff and residents in all long-term residential care places.
He added: “This has been a very important programme and I’d like to thank the National Ambulance Service in conjunction with our community teams who have over the past week tested over 20,000 residents in those locations.
“We’re also launching many of our clinical assessment hubs all across the country and 20 clinical assessment hubs are now in place.
“These are a key part in a fight against Covid because it protects people from ending up in our hospital system.
“I am also conscious we’re continuously having challenges on PPE (personal protective equipment) but we are making good progress, with extra deliveries coming in from China.
“Recently, you will have seen an announcement from NPHET in terms of the use of masks for all healthcare workers.
“I would like to thank all of our staff for your responsiveness throughout the last few weeks as we’ve responded and prepared for Covid-19.
“I’d also like to acknowledge it’s been a very sad time as we’ve lost some healthcare workers through Covid-19 during this process.
“I’d like to send out my sincere condolences to their family and friends and it’s a very tough time for everyone indeed.
“This has been a very tough time for staff and we’re very conscious that our staff be very conscious of their mental health during issues that can cause a lot of concern for our staff.”
On Sunday, the Department of Health said there had been an additional 26 deaths, bringing the cumulative toll to 1,087.
Another 701 positive cases were confirmed, bringing the overall total to 19,262.
Meanwhile, the organisers of the Rose of Tralee Festival have confirmed it has been postponed for the first time in its 61-year history because of Covid-19.
It will now be held in August 2021.
The 2020 Rose of Tralee International Festival has been postponed until August 2021🌹â¤ï¸ pic.twitter.com/anbpJeiSgy— Rose of Tralee (@RoseofTralee_) April 27, 2020
In a statement, the organisers said: “Over the past few weeks, our team has been considering how best we could safely deliver some, or all, of our 2020 festival events.
“Taking into account Government guidelines, the safety of our communities and the ability to deliver a wonderful festival, we have decided to postpone our 2020 festival until August 2021.
“This is the first time in our 61-year history that the festival has been postponed, but it is the right decision as we play our part right now in keeping each other safe and well.”
The organisation representing people with intellectual disabilities hailed a positive meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris, amid continuing concern about outbreaks of Covid-19 in long-term residential care homes.
Inclusion Ireland said 90% of disability services are free from the virus and those that have an outbreak are by and large managing well. There have been 10 deaths in disability services.
Mr Harris gave assurances that there will be parity and equality of access to PPE for disability services based on need, in the same way that hospitals and nursing homes are given access.
He agreed that a standardised communication protocol should be put in place for service providers to communicate with families when an outbreak occurs in a residential setting for people with disabilities.
Chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, Enda Egan, said Mr Harris has agreed to a follow-up meeting with Inclusion Ireland to review progress on these issues in two weeks time.