Coronavirus: What should you do if you have symptoms?

In a bid to disrupt the spread of this virus further advice is now available, so what is it?

Tested for the virus will take place if you have had recent fever and chills and/or symptoms of respiratory tract infection, including cough. File photograph: Getty

Ireland has introduced additional measures as part of an effort to interrupt the transmission of Covid-19.What is the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team?

What should you do?

Individuals who have symptoms should self-isolate for a period of 14 days.

Individuals should reduce discretionary social contacts as much as possible.

Older and/or medically vulnerable people should reduce as much as possible contacts outside home.


There should be no mass gatherings involving more than 100 people if located indoors or involving more than 500 people if located outdoors.

Closure of museums, galleries and tourism sites.

Closure of schools, creches, other childcare facilities and higher education institutions.

Reduction of workplace contacts where possible and implementation of remote working practices and teleconferencing where possible and not to travel for meetings. Work time and break times should be staggered, where possible.

Restriction of visiting at hospitals, long-term care settings, mental health facilities and prisons. New spacing measures have been introduced in homeless shelters.

Can you update me on who gets tested?

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has changed its policy on testing for the novel coronavirus. It no longer references geographical questions and is now based on clinical criteria alone.

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

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

People who are feeling unwell are advised to consult the HSE website, or ring the HSE Live helpline on 1850-241850 for advice. They are strongly advised not to visit their GP or emergency department except by prior telephone arrangement.

Where does testing take place?

Most people are being tested in their own homes, with the National Ambulance Service taking responsibility for this testing.

How long can I expect to wait for a result?

There is no hard and fast rule, but the Department of Health has said it aims to turn tests around in 24 to 48 hours, although some people have reported waiting on results for longer than this.

How does testing work?

Two samples are taken by swabbing someone’s nose or throat. People who are ill and are coughing will have a respiratory sample taken using sputum. Testing and a molecular diagnosis then follows. All tests are carried out at the National Virus Reference Laboratory in University College Dublin. But testing facilities are now being established in the laboratories of major acute hospitals and are expected to be operational by Monday, March 16th.

What is the capacity for testing and will that change?

The lab had a capacity of about 200 tests a day. As the new testing centres rolled out countrywide, it will increase substantially the system’s capacity.

There will be a major expansion in testing from Monday. The HSE say they will have “community Covid-19 testing centres established to enable testing at local level”.

In addition from Monday, GPs can make electronic requests for testing of patients to the HSE. GPs will not undertake the testing themselves.

Has the testing regime changed over time?

Ireland has moved out of the containment phase and into the delay phase of the pandemic. In a rapidly evolving situation there may be less of an emphasis on community testing as resources are shifted to looking after sicker, hospitalised patients.

What is the incubation period of coronavirus?

The time between exposure and onset of symptoms is estimated at between two and 14 days. Evidence is emerging to suggest that transmission can occur from an infected person with no symptoms; however, uncertainties remain about the effect of transmission by non-symptomatic people on the pandemic.

There is insufficient scientific information at present to determine an individual’s exact length of incubation.

Muiris Houston

Dr Muiris Houston

Dr Muiris Houston is medical journalist, health analyst and Irish Times contributor