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Review of Covid-19 testing as system comes under pressure

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the move is part of the Government’s plan to tackle the growing number of coronavirus cases.

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said a review of the Covid-19 test turnaround time is to be carried out as the system comes under huge strain from the surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases (Niall Carson/PA)

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said a review of the Covid-19 test turnaround time is to be carried out as the system comes under huge strain from the surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases (Niall Carson/PA)

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said a review of the Covid-19 test turnaround time is to be carried out as the system comes under huge strain from the surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases (Niall Carson/PA)

A review of the Covid-19 test turnaround time is to be carried out as the system comes under huge strain from the surge in confirmed cases.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the review is part of the Government’s plan to tackle the growing number of coronavirus cases.

Mr Donnelly said the turnaround time has been strained following the spate of outbreaks in Kildare, Offaly and Laois which have been linked to meat plants.

It came as health experts are considering renewed coronavirus restrictions amid surging case numbers.

Members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) met on Monday to discuss the outbreaks after 266 cases were reported over the weekend.

Mr Donnelly also said that serial Covid-19 testing will begin soon in Direct Provision Centres, nursing homes and meat processing plants across the country.

“Tomorrow we’re launching the Nursing Home Expert report – there’s 86 recommendations in that,” Mr Donnelly told RTE Morning Ireland.

“All of that is aimed at keeping people safe in nursing homes who we know tragically are most susceptible to this virus.

“We’re also finalising foreign travel proposals for Cabinet to discuss.

“The vast majority of employers are taking the infection control measures very seriously and what I would ask is over the coming weeks that there is a renewed focus – face coverings for the employees, and all of the infection control measures.

“Every man and woman in this country have to listen to the public health doctors, and what they are telling us is clear and we know what works – it’s the face coverings, social distancing, limiting the size of our gatherings, washing and disinfecting our hands coughing and sneezing as it goes.

“We know they work. I would say the next three weeks is incredibly important and we all just need to have that same intensity of focus that we had.”

Pop-up community testing centres have been set up in the three most affected counties.

One includes a Covid-19 testing centre at Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge, where a long queue of cars could be seen on Monday.

Meanwhile, Early Childhood Ireland has raised concerns that delays in Covid-19 testing could have “serious implications” for maintaining necessary staff ratios within childcare settings.

More than 1,500 childcare centres have reopened in line with Government guidelines around the staffing of “play-pods”, with a further 3,000 creches and after-school care providers expected to reopen from next week.

Teresa Heeney, chief executive at Early Childhood Ireland, said the implications for the sector could be critical.

“Generally, we’ve witnessed a smooth reopening of the childcare sector over the past few months, however the full reopening of early years and after-school providers from as early as next week will present further challenges, and Early Childhood Ireland is concerned that any delays in testing could have a serious knock-on effect on staffing levels,” she said.

“We’re told that testing occurs, on average, within 48 hours, however with the reported delays, childcare staff who display symptoms could be waiting up to a week to be tested and to receive results.

“Having staff out for such a duration would put huge pressure on childcare providers’ ability to maintain the legal staff-to-child ratios and would also be a huge public health concern.

“This has a knock-on effect on providers being able to keep specific rooms open, and potentially the entire setting functioning fully.”

Meanwhile, the owner of a Dublin city restaurant said that social media footage of the venue which shows people dancing in close proximity was “20 seconds of madness”.

Jay Bourke, owner of Berlin D2, said the footage, which also shows a barman standing on a bar and pouring alcohol into the mouths of revellers below, was “not reflective” of the day as a whole.

However, Mr Donnelly described the incident as “reckless”.

“I think what we saw was a slap in the face for everyone who’s working so hard to suppress the virus,” he added.

There have been no new deaths reported in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team said.

There has now been a total of 1,774 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland.

The system has been notified of a further 56 confirmed cases, bringing the overall total to 27,313.

PA