Cyber attack to impede ability of health service to organise effective Covid-19 testing

HSE says receipt of results may be delayed and those with test appointments booked urged to attend

People awaiting Covid-19 test results have been asked to continue to self isolate. File photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

People awaiting Covid-19 test results have been asked to continue to self isolate. File photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

 

The randomware attack on the HSE will impede the ability of the health service to organise effective testing and to measure the total number of cases, according to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

However, the incident should not distract people from the basic public health messages that protect against infection. Patients with symptoms should self-isolate and attend one of the Health Service Executive (HSE) self-testing centres, he said.

“We haven’t switched off testing and there no reason to think the public will deviate from their behaviour,” he added. Dr Holohan was speaking at the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing on Friday afternoon.

Earlier, the HSE said that the cyber attack may lead to delays in people receiving Covid-19 test results and people are urged to continue to self-isolate until they receive their results.

People who have symptoms of the disease or are a close contact of an infected case are being advised to attend one of the HSE’s testing sites or walk-in centres because the GP referral system is down as a result of the cyber attack, preventing doctors from booking Covid-19 tests.

GPs will advise people to attend a walk-in centre if they need testing. Walk-in testing is being prioritised for symptomatic people and close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

People who have Covid-19 appointments on Friday are being urged by the HSE to attend their designated centres and have their test.

Laboratories will still be processing tests from swabs of people who have had a recent Covid-19 test appointment.

“There may be some delay in receiving your test results. We are asking the public to bear with us while we implement a new process to provide results with an initial focus on detected results,” the HSE said in a statement.

“It is critical that anyone who is awaiting a Covid-19 test result self isolates until their test result. This is an important change from the usual restricting movements advice.”

The HSE has moved all contact tracing to two of its contacting tracing sites which remain operation but has warned that the process of collecting close contacts on calls to newly infected people may take longer than usual because of the cyber attack.

Contact tracers will gather close contact information and call close contacts to ask them to attend a walk-in site for testing.