Concern over length of time between people showing Covid symptoms and testing

Holohan urges people to contact their GP as soon as symptoms occur so contacts can be traced

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan: he  said the find-test-trace-isolate process was vital to controlling the spread of infections. Photograph:  Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan: he said the find-test-trace-isolate process was vital to controlling the spread of infections. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

Public health officials have expressed concern over the length of time that passes before many people experiencing Covid-19 symptoms are tested.

For one-third of people with symptoms, four days or more pass before they get tested, according to National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) data.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the find-test-trace-isolate process was vital to controlling the spread of infections. He urged people to contact their GP as soon as symptoms occurred so that contacts could be traced and further infections prevented.

A further 52 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by Nphet on Friday, 50 of which occurred in January. This brings to 2,870 the total number of deaths in the pandemic. The median age of those who died was 82 years, and the age range was 39 to 99 years.

Nphet also reported 2,371 confirmed cases of the disease.

“This weekend we need everyone to stay the course with hand-washing, covering coughs, wearing face coverings and keeping a 2m distance,” Dr Holohan said. “In order to take care of each other we need all to stay at home, except for essential reasons, to minimise the spread of Covid-19 to ourselves and our loved ones.”

County incidence

The 14-day incidence of the disease has dropped to 1,017 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Monaghan has the highest county incidence, followed by Waterford and Louth.

Dr Holohan acknowledged the ongoing restrictions were very challenging for people, but added that “through the hard work and sacrifice of the vast majority of people, we are starting to see the first signs of a lower prevalence of the disease in the population”.

“Strictly adhering to the public health measures is the key to making real progress in terms of flattening the curve and lowering the current trends in our hospitals and ICUs.”

However, “our data is telling us that for one-third of people it’s four days or more from the time they first experience symptoms of Covid-19 to the time they get tested”.

On Friday afternoon, 1,931 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, down 12 from the previous day. Of these 219 were in ICU, up five. There were 78 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

The HSE said on Friday 336 critical care beds were open, while the maximum number of beds in which a “reasonable quality of care” can be provided is 350.

Very alert

Liam Woods, director of acute hospitals, said the HSE was “very alert” to the risk this posed to patients.

“Clearly in a system where we have significant staff absence and a very significant surge of high community infection, we are concerned about risk.”

More than 1,600 non-critical care staff have been trained to support critical care processes, officials told the Oireachtas health committee on Friday.

Mr Woods said pressure on hospitals was “peaking around now”, though he acknowledged that the peak for ICU care would be later than for hospitalisations due to a lag effect.

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