Your PCR test experiences: From ‘easy peasy’ to a three-day wait

‘Ironic .. the government is telling us to take PCR tests when they are nigh on impossible to get’

Readers share their experience of booking PCR tests. Photograph: EPA/Angelo Carconi

Readers share their experience of booking PCR tests. Photograph: EPA/Angelo Carconi


As demand for tests spiked, the only PCR test centre in southwest Dublin closed shop
In recent months the green tent on Inchicore’s Emmet Road had become a fixture on evening walks around the block, until mid-November when this – the only PCR test centre located in the south west inner city – closed shop for good. The closure of this and other test centres means hundreds of thousands of Dubliners are now competing for fewer appointments and having to travel further afield to attend.
Dublin, Ireland

Couldn’t book same day but otherwise efficient
I booked a test for myself and one for my son at 6am on Tuesday morning (he’s an early riser!) and there were around 900 available for Wednesday. I continued to check the website on Tuesday in case we got a same day cancellation but found that by 9am there were no appointments available in either Tuesday or Wednesday. We went for our tests in Dublin Airport on Wednesday morning and the service was excellent, very busy but practically no wait and very nice staff.
Dublin, Ireland

No tests for two days in Kildare
My 12-year-old has headaches and generally unwell since Monday, no PCR test available. I got a phone consult with GP Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t recommend a test at the moment because “they are up the walls over there” and unless she had more than three symptoms he wasn’t going to test. As she is vaccinated no one else is isolating, but watching carefully.

We queued for less than five minutes
On Monday, November 15th I was able to book a PCR test in DCU for my wife and me for Wednesday 17th. We had our choice of venues and slots (though there were no same-day slots anywhere). The tests went smoothly: we queued for less than five minutes. The tests were negative. This week my teenage daughter developed symptoms and we had the same experience: no same-day slots, but plenty for the following day, in DCU again. That test, yesterday (Tuesday), went even faster, with no queuing at all, and in fact though there were two people ahead of us, there were empty cubicles. The place was very quiet. We’re awaiting the result of that test. So I’ve been surprised to hear that “you can’t get a test for love or money”. Maybe you need to go on the website very early?
Dublin, Ireland

Got test in less than 24 hours
Called my GP as I had symptoms. That was 2.45pm on Tuesday, November 23rd. Got my PCR test in Wicklow next morning at 10.55am. Had a 45-minute wait in the car as the test centre was busy. Not a problem. Not sure where the comment about “no test for love nor money” comes from. It was easy peasy for me.

Really impressed and grateful
I was named as a close contact last Friday morning and I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent so I booked a PCR test on the HSE website. The next available test was for 1:40pm the following day, a Saturday. The drive through test centre at Dublin airport (the nearest available centre at the time to my home in South Dublin) was very busy but very well managed and all staff were pleasant and professional. I received my result (thankfully negative) by 3pm the following day, a Sunday. Really impressed and grateful for all the hard work by the staff involved.
Dublin, Ireland

Went private
I tested positive with an antigen but couldn’t get a PCR from the HSE. Went with a private company ( Got a test the next morning, found out I was positive by the afternoon. I consider myself lucky I could afford the €69 fee. How many people can’t? I don’t care who does it, the government should be helping people with this cost.

Child with bad head cold
My 4 -year-old daughter had a bad head cold and cough. She had no other symptoms but I knew that she needed a PCR test before going back to school. We couldn’t get a test online on Monday but I rang my GP at lunchtime on Monday and they said they’d arrange one for us. We got an appointment later that day for 5.35pm. Test centre was busy but efficient. We were told 24 to 48 hours for results but we got results back by 11.30am on Tuesday morning and it was thankfully negative. I found the whole process extremely painless but I know that is not a lot of peoples experience. The staff in the IMI test centre in Balally are exceptional and so reassuring with small children. I was able to send my daughter back to school today with a clear conscience but we need to realise that children get a lot of sniffles and coughs at this time of year and if we have to get a PCR test every time it’s no wonder the system is overrun. There has to be a better way.

Free of charge but not free of pain
I have had about a dozen PCR tests between May 2020 and August 2021. Most took nasal swabs. Most were via private operators and only two were done via the HSE, and these were the worst. After my last one in August of this year, I suffered for a week afterwards with discomfort and disrupted sinuses. The medical costs I incurred after ended up being more than what I would have paid for a PCR test by a private health operator. I have sworn to myself to never get a PCR test again from the HSE. I refuse to engage with contact tracers. If I need a PCR test in the future, I will pay for a privately operated one which takes a swab of saliva only.
Limerick City, Ireland

Contact tracers arranged tests for the family at different locations
Our oldest child has a positive PCR result. HSE contact tracers arranged tests for the rest of the family: the youngest (4) has appointment in a city testing centre, two parents (despite booking on different phones) have appointment 30 minutes later at a different location, other child has an appointment at the second location 2 hours later, hardly seems ideal from infection control point of view. We have cancelled and asked to rearrange the first appointment but I do appreciate that the HSE has a really difficult task so we are just glad to have the appointments
Dublin, Ireland

The earliest slot was two days away
I had to go for a PCR test last week and the earliest slot I could get was two days from the day I booked - and that involved waiting on the HSE Self-Referral site until midnight to wait for slots to become available. It is ironic that in a time when the government is telling symptomatic people to take PCR tests (instead of antigen) – they are nigh impossible to get. I would sooner follow the health advice arising out of the 26 other EU member states with regard to antigen testing than our own government’s  which has been the result of internal disagreements within government combined with public pressure to accept the wider use of antigen testing. PCR testing capacity should be increased if this is the view they are taking – with more accessible locations. Anyone living in Dublin between the two canals without access to a car is essentially at a loss as to where to get tested in the public system. Why is there no test centre in the city centre?
Dublin, Ireland

Symptoms improved so we gave up on PCR test
Oldest son (7) had several symptoms, tested negative on antigen 3 times. Spent 3 days trying to get PCR test. Symptoms improved so we gave up on PCR test. Remained negative on antigen.

There are literally no appointments
I live in Dublin and have been trying to book a PCR test as a household member has tested positive. There are literally no appointments available in Dublin, Meath, Kildare or Wicklow – apparently the appointments reset at midnight so the only option is to wait until then and hope the site doesn’t crash. It’s completely ridiculous , we all knew that cases would rise in the winter.
Dublin, Ireland

We got one within 45 minutes
All test centres within an hour of Ratoath were showing ‘0’ appointments, but on refreshing the screen a few times appointments became available, we got one within 45 minutes. That was November 16th. The centre was not overly busy on arrival, the test went smoothly 2 minutes and result back in 24 hours

Victoria provides 2-3 times the number of PCR tests on a daily basis
I live in Melbourne, Victoria but I lived most of my life in Ireland and my family still live there. Victoria had a pre-Covid population of 6.6 million people. Tests are provided on a walk-in or drive-through basis without GP referral, for free at over 100 centres across the state. We completed 72754 tests yesterday, while we have less than a quarter of the current daily cases than Ireland. We’ve had daily testing levels of 50,000 to 80,000 for at least four months. I have never wait more than 24 hours for a PCR result and usually get it back in less than 12 hours. I do not understand how testing capacity is still so low in Ireland nearly two years into this pandemic; it is a farce and jeopardising the whole situation when people can’t easily access testing with quick results to allow swift informing of close contacts and the accompanying suppression of the virus. They seem to setting the testing bar far too low; gold standard it is not.
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

What an amazing level of organisation
Booked test for 11.55am. Arrived 11.50am. Test at 11.56am. Out at 11.57am. What an amazing facility and level of organisation. Well done to everybody involved. Too often throughout this pandemic we have been quick to accentuate the negative. But overall we have been extremely well served by government, officials and in particular our overburdened health service.

Near impossible to book a test
I attempted to book a PCR test for my 5-year-old daughter on Monday morning, but found it very hard to find a slot in our nearest test centre in Dublin. I spent most of the morning constantly refreshing the webpage to find any availability for the following day. I eventually saw about 19 appointment slots become available but when I went to complete the booking process, the validation text was not sent to my phone as expected. I tried several numbers and email addresses, all with the same result, so clearly there was an issue with the booking system and sending the SMS. Eventually at lunchtime the text messages started to arrive and I was finally able to secure a slot. I think I was very fortunate, I’ve heard of family and colleagues struggle to secure a slot and resorting to paying for a private PCR test.

Drove to Wexford from Bray, sick as a dog
I got back from London on Friday from my first business trip in two years. London was shocking, barely a mask in sight and heavy crowding. So despite my best efforts, I wasn’t surprised when I started to feel sick on Sunday. I had been taking daily antigen tests and they were consistently negative, but as my symptoms developed thought it best to book a PCR test (given the previous messaging that antigen tests are snake oil). I tried to book one in Wicklow, Dublin, Kildare, and Roscommon, before eventually getting a slot in Wexford. When I booked the slot it took more than 45 minutes for the confirmation 6 digit code to come through to my phone, so I had assumed there was a bug in the system and tried to contact my GP instead (next appointment 3 days time). Tried phoning HSE, hung up after 30 mins holding. Eventually the code showed up, and amazingly I hadn’t closed the window on my computer. So I hopped in the car and headed to Wexford. With a temperature, sneezing fits and constant coughing it wasn’t the best or safest three-hour round trip. Got the results about 44 hours later. Negative! Still feeling awful.

Donegal tops the list
No problem getting a PCR test in Letterkenny. Got one on Monday within 40 minutes of going online. Very efficient and pleasant staff at the test centre. Got the result (negative) within 24 hours. It’s great to see Donegal topping the list for the right reason for a change.