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Three-day target for coronavirus testing and tracing from next week – HSE

The target is set to be introduced when the Government begins its first phase of relaxing Covid-19 restrictions on Monday.

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Around 270,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out across Ireland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Around 270,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out across Ireland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Around 270,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out across Ireland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that a target of having a turnaround of Covid-19 testing and contact tracing done within three days will begin next week.

The target is set to be introduced when the Government begins its first phase of relaxing Covid-19 restrictions on Monday.

Paul Reid gave details of the HSE’s road map in testing and tracing which is to be published later on Thursday.

It comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is “increasingly confident” that Ireland will be able to move to phase one of its coronavirus lockdown measures as planned.

“Whilst every death is of concern, in the last seven days we’ve seen the lowest daily number of deaths and cases since March,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The crucial thing is to keep doing the right things, to stick to the strategy and maintain our focus, to expect and look for new clusters and flare-ups.

“This virus is a fire in retreat. We must quench its every spark and stamp out every ember.

“It’s worth remembering that we are still in phase zero. All things going to plan, phase one will begin, if and only if it’s safe to do so.

“The moment we assume that our progress through the phases is inevitable, we risk going backwards.

“As we open workplaces, we will see more workplace clusters and need to be vigilant about that.”

Speaking at the HSE briefing at University College Dublin, Mr Reid said that HSE has had “significant” challenges in the testing process, including issues around supplies of swabs and PPE.

Around 270,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out across Ireland, equating to about 5% of the population.

“We’ve consistently remained in the top tier of European countries in terms of the number of tests completed,” Mr Reid added.

“We faced significant backlogs which resulted in a poor experience for a lot of people.

“We have been rightly judged in that and held to account.”

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

As part of the HSE’s new road map, a number of key milestones have been factored in as part of its plan to build on capacity and approve turnaround times.

“One is the time it takes from the swab to the person to get their result and the second key measure is the end-to-end turnaround time – that’s the time from the referral to the completion of the full contract and tracing process,” Mr Reid added.

“This this is all driven by public health guidelines.”

He said that the health service has met its targets on swabbing and testing capacity within the community.

The HSE set a target of delivering 12,000 swab tests, which it said it has met.

“We are ahead of the laboratory tests to have the capacity to deliver 12,000 and we now have the ability to deliver over 15,000 tests per day,” he added.

“We set a target between two to three days for a swab to be completed, which has been met.”

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HSE CEO Paul Reid (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

HSE CEO Paul Reid (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

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HSE CEO Paul Reid (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

He added that around 90% of positive cases will be completed from end-to-end in three days.

Mr Reid explained that the other 10% are complex cases which include difficult contact tracing.

On Wednesday, the chief medical officers said that turnaround times for testing and tracing coronavirus in Ireland are not set to delay the lockdown exit plan.

Dr Tony Holohan said, while there was room for improvement in driving down the time taken to complete the process, it was not a significant enough issue to delay the rollout of the plan.

The coronavirus death toll in Ireland rose to 1,497 after a further 10 deaths were announced by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Wednesday.

A further 159 new confirmed cases of the virus brings the total in Ireland since the outbreak began to 23,401.

PA