The number of people to have tested positive for Covid-19 at walk-in testing centres for the asymptomatic people has surpassed the 1,000 mark.
In the four weeks since the HSE first opened the centres, some 1,062 people have tested positive for the disease out of 36,500 tested, giving a positivity rate of almost 3 per cent nationally.
Testing sites were chosen to catch symptom-free positive cases in an attempt to identify unknown clusters of infection and to prevent further transmission of the disease.
Locations were picked based on high incidence rates of the disease and to encourage people to seek Covid-19 tests, even if they have no symptoms.
The aim of the centres is to offer tests to people who may not have a GP or who may be reluctant to visit a doctor’s surgery because they might only have mild symptoms.
There are five pop-up centres in operation: at Tallaght Stadium, at Cumann Naomh Peregrine in Mulhuddart, at Parnells GAA Club in Coolock and at St Catherine's Community Sports Centre in The Liberties in Dublin and at the HSE primary care centre in Cahir, Co Tipperary.
People are also being tested who walk in to the HSE's testing centres at St Loman's Hospital in Mullingar and at Ballinacarriga GAA in Dunmanway in Co Cork. Walk-ins will be accepted at another centre, Tralee in Co Kerry from Wednesday.
The testing has detected high infection rates in some areas, as high as 8.2 per cent among people tested in Coolock, 6.5 per cent at The Liberties and 5.5 per cent in Mulhuddart.
“This shows us where pockets of the disease are,” said Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead on testing and tracing, confirming the view of public health doctors that high rates of asymptomatic spread would be detected in areas where incidence rates were high.
The testing has revealed a trend showing additional cases of infection linked to family, workplace and other known outbreaks of the disease.
“There have been more small groups of people with more close contacts and there is a rising number of people who are having more close contacts,” said Ms O’Beirne.
“It is not having a massive increase overall on average number of close contacts but we are finding more people who have 10 or more contacts because they are meeting family.”
Tracers, who are responsible for calling close contacts of infected cases, have found people reporting back that they are tired with the public restrictions and self-isolation, she said.
Some people contacted by tracers had the incorrect view that the most vulnerable had been protected because of vaccinations and so they did not need to stick with public health measures.
There was a need to keep case numbers low while more people are vaccinated, she said.
The positivity rate among walk-ins is considerably higher than the serial testing in nursing homes and other residential care homes, which stands at 0.1 per cent.
Across 35 community testing sites around the country the positivity rate has been as high as 15 per cent in Donegal over the last seven days, 12 per cent in Meath and 8.8 per cent in Dublin.