‘Remarkable’ drop in referrals for Covid-19 testing, Nphet member says

‘Remarkable’ Drop In Referrals For Covid-19 Testing, Nphet Member Says
Nphet member Dr Colm Henry said the nation must now 'hold our course'.
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By Sarah Mooney

A “remarkable” drop in GP referrals for Covid-19 community testing has been seen this week, a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said the nation must now “hold our course” as Level 5 restrictions appear to be working but effort needs to be sustained.


Speaking of the situation in Europe, Dr Henry said that Ireland was one of only two countries with negative growth of the virus seen in its 14-day incidence rate.

We learned that we could maintain our schools open while reducing this rate and opening healthcare services in a safe manner, he said.

HSE chief Paul Reid said the number of referrals for testing in the community, the number of close contacts and the number of contact tracing calls had all reduced in the last week.

The health officials were speaking during a weekly update from the HSE at Dr Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin, as Level 5 restrictions to curb the spread of the virus in the Republic have been in place for two weeks.


Hospital spread

Dr Henry said there were “some signs of steadying of the impact on our acute hospital system”.

While Mr Reid described trends over the past week as “quite encouraging”, he cautioned that though other indicators of the virus had reduced the number of hospitalisations had at best “remained stable”.

An average of just under 22 daily admissions to hospital as a result of the virus was being seen while the number of people hospitalised was generally hovering around 300, Mr Reid said.

He warned that hospitalisations had once been congregated in Dublin hospitals but higher numbers were now being seen spread across the country.


Mr Reid said the HSE was “continuing to meet all demand” for Covid-19 testing across the community, hospitals and serial testing of workers in settings such as meat plants, as demand for community testing had decreased by 10 per cent in recent weeks.

Last week saw a 37 per cent decrease in testing demand between both GP referrals and the testing of contacts, Mr Reid said.

The number of contact tracing calls to be made had also reduced, due to decreased numbers of both confirmed cases and close contacts.

Take good encouragement that your action that you have taken is working


Mr Reid said the average number of close contacts now stood at 3.6 per person, an indicator of some “high numbers” of contacts among “some people”.

In terms of the test and trace system, Mr Reid said there would be 320 new people on board in community swabbing centres and 420 new contact tracers by the end of the week.

He said the HSE was taking on about 70 people each week to work within the system and “that’s our new model we want to sustain”.

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Mr Reid said with many people struggling around the country due to the “severe restrictions” in place to suppress the virus, it was all the more important that the nation sustains “the huge effort that everybody has made over past few weeks”.

“Take good encouragement that your action that you have taken is working,” he said as he warned against people dropping their guard “at this stage”.

Everything to do with this virus is always very fragile and can change in a short period of time, Mr Reid said.

We are currently bucking trends seen in Europe but this could turn very quickly, he added.

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