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Testing times Only one test offered to close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases over Christmas period

Usually, the HSE offers two coronavirus tests to close contacts between day zero and day seven.

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Paul Reid, DG of the HSE

Paul Reid, DG of the HSE

Paul Reid, DG of the HSE

Only one test will be offered to close contacts of confirmed cases over the Christmas period to deal with increased demand for testing and tracing.

Usually, the HSE offers two coronavirus tests to close contacts between day zero and day seven.

However, to deal with increased demands on testing and contact tracing systems, from December 23, only one test is being offered by the HSE on day five.

This will be reviewed on January 12 2021.

Close contacts of confirmed cases should still restrict movements for 14 days even if their test is negative.

Speaking last week, HSE CEO Paul Reid said that if cases reached 2,000 per day, there would be “major pressure on our testing and tracing capacity” as well as “very significant hospitalisation” and “very significant ICU increases”.

Positive cases can now also register their contacts online.

“So, right now we can, if you're a close contact you'll be alerted where you can register your close contacts online rather than us having to make contact. But those contacts then can arrange their own appointment for swabbing, so rather than us ringing. So, that takes relief off the call pressure,” he said.

Mr Reid said that referrals and symptomatic people will be prioritised.

“And also, what we will be, as required, moving to because we have to prioritise symptomatic people and referrals. We will be prioritising and probably most likely moving to a single-day test.

"So, instead of a day zero and a day seven, we’ll maximise the capacity and go for a single-day test. So, a number of contingency measures were put in place and operational measures,” he added.

There are 750 now full-time contact tracers and 630 full-time contact swabbers working at the moment, with scheduling arranged right throughout the festive period.

Mr Reid said that staff may also be pulled from other areas, like the defence forces.

“We’ll also pull on some other contingency workforce. So, people like the defence forces who have been working with us in the past, will deployed at the right points in time. We’re also doing things like system solutions,” he added.

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