New walk-in Covid test centres to be opened by HSE

Reid warns confirmed case numbers may increase again slightly over coming days

HSE CEO Paul Reid described the fact that there were no Covid patients in St James’ Hospital in Dublin on Thursday, compared to a peak of 130 cases in January,  as ‘remarkable’. File photograph: The Irish Times

HSE CEO Paul Reid described the fact that there were no Covid patients in St James’ Hospital in Dublin on Thursday, compared to a peak of 130 cases in January, as ‘remarkable’. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Fifteen new self-referral centres for testing people for Covid-19 are to be opened by the Health Service Executive. Members of the public will be able to attend the centres without the need for referral by a GP.

There are at present only four such self-referral centres, which were opened in response to problems caused by the cyberattack on the HSE’s IT system.

With case numbers under 300 a day on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, infections are at their lowest rate since last December, officials told a briefing on Thursday.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said this may be due to fewer people coming forward for testing over the bank holiday weekend and case numbers are likely to rise somewhat.

With many older people vaccinated, cases are increasingly arising among unvaccinated younger people. Last week, 80 per cent of cases were in people aged 44 years or younger.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has fallen further to 70, including 23 in ICU. The largest hospital in the State, St James’s in Dublin, had no Covid patients on Thursday, compared to a peak of up to 130 last January, a milestone Mr Reid hailed as “remarkable”.

Mr Reid urged people to remain cautious, though, pointing to the experience of the UK, where daily case numbers rose this week to the highest level since February.

He said 3.1 million vaccine doses have been administered, including 2.2 million first doses. Some 26 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated and 57 per cent have had a first dose.

From next week, the HSE will being reducing the interval between AstraZeneca doses on a phased basis from 12 weeks to eight.

Last week, 260,000-270,000 people were vaccinated, a slight falloff on previous numbers due to supply issues.

Between 250,000 and 270,000 doses will be administered this week, and 270,000-290,000 expected next week.

Activity should increase in the second half of June thanks to “very strong supply lines” from Pfizer, Mr Reid said.

The “did not attend” rate has been 4.2 per cent since early May but increased “slightly” last week due to the proximity of the bank holiday weekend and problems caused by the cyberattack.

Despite this level of non-attendance, officials advised the public against turning up at vaccination centres without an appointment, as standby lists are in place.

A total of 8,175 tests have been carried out in hotel quarantine, resulting in 251 positive tests - a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent.

Officials said over 100,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered. The balance of supplies - about 60,000 doses - will be supplied to pharmacies for administration from next week. Once these supplies are used up, use of this vaccine in the Irish rollout will cease.

Last week, there was one outbreak involving two cases in nursing homes. No cases were recorded in community hospitals or acute hospitals.

There were two outbreaks in residential institutions while in workplaces there were 39 outbreaks, with 118 cases.

In schools and childcare facilities, there were 56 outbreaks, involving a total of 261 cases.