New online portal to open for self-referral Covid-19 tests

HSE’s testing plan aims to target younger people as average age of infections falls

The HSE mobile walk-in Covid-19 test centre in Balbriggan: the pop-up walk-in test centres, which started in March, show that  easy availability of testing eases people’s concerns. Photograph: Alan Betson

The HSE mobile walk-in Covid-19 test centre in Balbriggan: the pop-up walk-in test centres, which started in March, show that easy availability of testing eases people’s concerns. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The HSE is planning to allow the public in some areas to refer themselves for Covid-19 tests online to make it easier for younger people in infection hotspots to get tested for the virus.

As part of continuing efforts to catch more cases, an online portal will be trialled over the coming weeks allowing people to seek tests without having to visit a doctor.

The areas will be chosen by public health doctors based on incidence levels of the disease, though, if successful, the portal could be opened up nationally if testing capacity allows. Parts of Dublin will be among the first areas chosen for a test-run of the online portal.

“It is all part of a strategy to make testing access easier for people and to meet the needs of people,” said Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead for testing and tracing.

“Over time we have realised that for certain communities we need to get closer to them and be closer to them. People need easier access to the testing centres. This will bring them closer.”

Those who register on the portal will receive a text message directing them to attend a nearby HSE Covid-19 test centre to be swabbed.

Ms O’Beirne said the pop-up walk-in test centres, which started in March, had shown that the easy availability of testing had eased concerns of people where they had been involved in risky activities and wanted to get tested or alleviate the concerns of an employer.

The portal is being introduced to encourage more younger people to get tested as the median age of new cases has fallen with vaccinations protecting older people from infection.

The median age of new cases reported this week ranged from 25 to 30 years of age. Close to 80 per cent of new cases are among under-45s, compared with 50-60 per cent in January.

In Donegal, the county with the highest infection rates, test results from the walk-in centre in Letterkenny has shown a positivity rate of 4.9 per cent, above the national average of 3 per cent.

A second walk-in centre opened in Milford on Wednesday. Other walk-in test centres will open in Convoy, from Saturday to Monday, and in Carndonagh, from Tuesday to Thursday, as the HSE tries to reduce the spread of the disease in Donegal.