Major lab unable to process Covid-19 tests amid staff shortages

ireland
The National Virus Reference Laboratory at UCD said it would be unable to provide testing the next two weekends. Photo: File photograph.
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Sarah Mooney

One of the main labs processing the country’s Covid-19 tests has said it will be unable to operate over the next two weekends due to “unavoidable staff shortages.”

In a statement posted on its website, the National Virus Reference Laboratory at UCD said it would be unable to provide testing over both this bank holiday weekend and the following weekend of October 31st and November 1st.

The notice apologised for “the late notice and for any inconvenience this may cause.”

It comes just days after it emerged that 2,500 people positive for Covid-19 were asked to carry out their own contact tracing as the tracing system was overwhelmed.

However, head of the laboratory Dr Cillian de Gascun said that the staff shortages this weekend and next will "have no impact" on Covid-19 testing capacity, according to the Irish Examiner.

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He said that the lab would close both weekends as a number of staff are currently self-isolating.

We have already seen the shambles with tracing but testing is absolutely essential

"We split into two teams to ensure that if one of the teams were affected that we will be able to continue to deliver the service, obviously back in March, April, May it was more significant when we were doing a far greater proportion of the national testing,” he said.

Mr de Gascun said that the majority of testing from the community was now performed at Enfer with additional capacity at hospital laboratories.

"We agreed this with the HSE to ensure that there would be no impact on the testing capacity over the course of the relevant time frame," he told RTÉ's New at One programme.

Shambles

In the Dáil today, concerns were raised over the news that the laboratory would not be able to process swabs this weekend.

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Sinn Féin TD Louis O'Reilly said she was "very disturbed" to learn that staffing shortages meant testing will not take place.

She asked Health Minister Stephen Donnelly if he was aware of the staffing issue and called him to outline steps that had been taken to address the issue and ensure tests would be processed.

“We have already seen the shambles with tracing but testing is absolutely essential,” she said.

Solidarity-PBP TD Richard-Boyd Barrett said the temporary closure of the lab had the potential to "undermine the fight against Covid-19".

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