Covid-19: Seven new walk-in test centres being opened this week

Self-testing for antigens to be explored in creches and schools

Seven new walk-in Covid-19 testing centres are being opened this week, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced.

Three of the centres will be in Dublin with one each in counties Meath, Westmeath, Kildare and Galway.

They are aimed at finding asymptomatic cases of the virus in the community.

The centres replace five locations that opened in Dublin and Co Offaly last week.


The new centres in Dublin will be in Finglas at the City of Dublin Education and Training Board premises; Balbriggan at the Quay Street car park and Crumlin GAA club house in the south city.

Finglas and Balbriggan open for the first time on Thursday April 1st and Crumlin opens on Friday April 2nd.

There will be a walk-in centre at O’Mahony’s GAA Club in Navan, Co Meath; the Athlone Regional Sports Centre in Co Westmeath; and at the Town Hall car park in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

Navan opens on Thursday and Athlone and Ballinasloe open on Friday.

The final centre will be at Naas Racecourse in Co Kildare which will open from Friday.

All of the centres are open from 11am to 7pm daily.

The seven centres will be operating in the new locations for between three and seven days with further details including opening times to be provided by the HSE.

People who are over 16 years of age can attend the centres without a referral from GPs.

They are open to people who live within 5km of the test centre who have not tested positive for Covid-19 in the last six months.

People who wish to be tested need to bring photo ID and provide a mobile phone number to get their result.

At an earlier briefing on Wednesday HSE national lead for testing and tracing Niamh O‘Beirne said particular locations have been selected because health officials are concerned about case numbers in those areas.

The five walk in centres which opened last Thursday for week-long testing will close on Wednesday. A total of 12,390 people were swabbed at the five walk-in test centres during the week-long testing with the final day, Wednesday, being the busiest when 2,557 people were tested.

HSE figures show that the Dublin north inner-city test centre at Grangegorman was the busiest with 668 tests carried out on Wednesday and about 3,000 over the course of the week.

The Dublin north west centre in Blanchardstown had the highest rate of asymptomatic cases detected at 4.25 per cent of tests, with overall positivity of 3 per cent across all five sites.

The positivity rate was highest among people aged between 16 and 24 years old.

Ms O’Beirne said the positivity rate at the centres has been about 3 per cent.

“We’re going to look at the data in terms of the positives that came through each area,” she said.

“Were they symptomatic? Had they any connections with a close contact? What were the circumstances of their infection? So we can understand and learn from it and bring that forward into what we are doing next.”

The HSE is also exploring whether a system of self-swabbing and self-testing for antigens can be rolled out in educational facilities – from crèches right up to third level – in order to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Ms O’Beirne said a pilot study will be conducted in the coming weeks and a position in terms of feasibility will be known by September.

“The purpose of the pilot is to look at self-swabbing and self-testing for antigen in educational facilities,” she said.

“That goes all the way from childcare and crèches through to third level, and looking at staff in those cohorts, and in some of those cohorts looking at students as well, particularly as you get to older children and young adults.

“This particular pilot is an operational pilot. How will it work? How would we get the tests? How comfortable are they? How do people take to doing them? What are the benefits resulting from that.

“The idea is to do a study in the coming weeks to have a position ready for September when schools and third level reopen again.”

Ms O’Beirne said representatives from the Department of Children and the Department of Education are liaising with health officials on the matter.

She added that the system could also be rolled out in particular industries, with construction currently at the forefront.

“We will continue to work with some industries as well, in particular construction, in terms of starting to consider what sort of approach may be appropriate for them to take on,” she said.

“Construction is at an earlier stage. We are talking to them about an approach. We consider antigen as a tool in a toolkit. In and of itself, it doesn’t open or close an industry, so it’s part of their response.

“We’re going to work with them to discuss the appropriateness of that. It’s a very different industry from the meat industry which has had both PCR testing and now supplements that with antigen testing.

“We will work with them to see what we would deem to be appropriate and what advice we would give them.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times