Coronavirus: Testing to increase from Monday to meet rising demand

Health services have new electronic process to allow GPs to order tests

The HSE is set to increase testing for coronavirus from Monday, in a bid to meet the rising demand for the procedure.

At the weekend, the health service announced that GPs would be able to order tests through their IT system, and that steps were being made to ensure sufficient testing facilities will be available to meet the rising demand.

Up until this week, testing was carried out at people’s homes through the National Ambulance Service. However, while at-home tests continue, the HSE is also establishing a number of community testing sites across the country.

These sites will be attendance by referral only, meaning individuals cannot simply show up and receive a test.


GPs will from Monday be able to order tests more easily through an electonic process.

“Members of the public who have normal cold and flu like symptoms or who believe they may have been in contact with Covid-19 are being asked to self-isolate and to ring their GP on Monday, who will then be in a position to triage patients appropriately and order a test where indicated,” a statement by the HSE said.

Individuals who undergo testing are advised to self-isolate, even prior to receiving the results of the test.

It is understood that these measures will result in a surge of tests being carried out.

Testing for the virus previously focused on individuals who had recently visited an infected area in Europe. However, this criteria has changed and health officials no longer reference geographical questions and base their decisions on clinical criteria alone.

Individuals who have had a recent onset of fever and chills and/or symptoms of respiratory tract infection, including cough, are likely to be tested.

People who are ill with a severe lung infection will also be tested, as will those who have developed pneumonia.

Anyone coming back from an area subject to a Department of Foreign Affairs travel advisory against non-essential travel needs to self-isolate for 14 days.

If displaying symptoms, those individuals are advised to contact their GP who will then refer them for testing.

Meanwhile, Irish racing enthusiasts returning from Cheltenham will be subject to "health interviews" at airports and ports in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

GP out-of-hours services and emergency phone lines received a very large number of calls from people seeking access to testing for coronavirus over the weekend, the health service said.

The HSE said on Saturday that GPs out of hours services were not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu like symptoms.

“HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public.”

“The public are asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times”, the HSE said in a statement.

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE said;"While we appreciate people's concern about Covid-19, we would ask for their patience as we respond to the increasing requirement for testing.

He added: “To limit the spread of Covid- 19 people should; practice social distancing and avoid crowded places, wash their hands properly and often, cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, clean and disinfect frequently touched surface, stay at home if they are sick to avoid spread of whatever infection they have.

“We will all work together as a health service to provide the information you need, and to provide the testing and health care needed for those who do develop illness due to Covid-19.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times