Targeted Covid-19 testing may be necessary, doctors warned

Irish College of General Practitioners says pressures may see some with symptoms not tested

Further strain on the Covid-19 testing system could create a scenario where people with symptoms of the disease are not tested automatically, a doctors’ organisation has warned.

Dr Nuala O’Connor, clinical lead on Covid-19 for the Irish College of General Practitioners, told her fellow doctors that it is “possible in the coming weeks that we may revert to targeted testing of symptomatic groups rather than testing everyone with symptoms as we did in the first phase of the pandemic”.

The third wave also means that close contacts will not be tested for the foreseeable future, she stated in a letter updating Covid-19 guidance for GPs.

Hospital Report

Instead, it states that family members who live with people who have Covid-19 should self-isolate for 17 days instead of the 14 days at present. If a close contact does not know when they were last in contact with a positive case, then they should stay at home for 14 days from the date they are notified of the exposure.


Dr O’Connor recommends that because of the pressures on the system at present, those who test positive for Covid-19 should let their close contacts know in advance of the formal contact from the contact tracing system.

At present, there is capacity for 25,000 tests per day and 40 per cent of tests in recent weeks were of close contacts. She said close contacts should get a test if they are living with somebody who is medically vulnerable.

Exceptions should also be made for health care workers who are close contacts and for travellers from the UK mainland and South Africa.

“They need to self-isolate for 14 days and to have a test on day five. If they test positive their close contacts need a test on day five and should be referred for this by their GP,” she stated

Community levels

On Sunday, the IGCP sent a follow-up letter warning that levels of Covid-19 in the community are “predicted to outstrip the first and second waves” in the coming weeks.

“Protecting the GP practice teams and our patients who need to be seen face-to-face in the surgery from acquiring Covid needs to be our primary goal during January, the letter states.

“Each practice will have to evaluate how they are going to manage the level of face-to-face care they can safely deliver.”

The letter further stated it was aware of concerns from GPs regarding the absence of a timetable for the vaccination of them and their staff.

"We wish to re-assure that we are actively engaging along with our IMO colleagues with all relevant authorities to confirm the roll-out of the vaccination to GP Practices. Further updates will be provided as the week progresses," the letter signed by IGCP president Margaret O'Riordan, its chair Dr John Farrell, its lead Covid medical director Dr Diarmuid Quinlan and Dr O'Connor.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times