German lab on standby as test system under mounting pressure

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

Thousands of Covid-19 tests could be sent to Germany each day for analysis, as the Health Service Executive (HSE) is sourcing additional capacity for its struggling test and trace system.

The HSE has reached a deal with a German lab to create “surge capacity” of up to 2,000 additional Covid-19 tests, beyond the current daily capacity of 15,000 tests, according to the Irish Times.

This daily limit was almost reached last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as the weekly number of tests processed reached a new high of 85,000.

The deal with the lab operated by Eurofins Biomnis will increase capacity, though sending tests will increase the time it takes to get results.

Hospitals are also being equipped to increase their own testing capacity from 3,500 tests per day to 5,000, with the HSE supplying more testing kits.

Second wave

It comes as HSE chief Paul Reid told ministers at the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee that Ireland’s testing system will not be able to withstand a second wave of the virus.

Mr Reid told the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and other senior ministers that the HSE currently has no scope to increase capacity beyond carrying out around 14,000 tests per day or 100,000 per week.

Serial testing at meat plants had to be stopped earlier this month due to an increase in demand for swabs in the community.

Head of the HSE’s contact tracing service Kilian McGrane said it was now at its busiest since the peak of the outbreak, with 2,000 calls per day made to close contacts.

Mr McGrane said the calls to close contacts have also become more complex, with contact tracers being met with frustration on the other side of the line.

The number of calls made by tracers has doubled in the past fortnight from 4,600 per week to more than 10,500.

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