Woman back from South Africa with Covid symptoms awaits PCR test

Antigen tests negative but she finds nearby PCR centres in midlands all booked out

 Heathrow airport: Following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, whose mutations suggest greater transmissibility than previous virus strains, the UK has imposed new restrictions on travellers. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Getty

Heathrow airport: Following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, whose mutations suggest greater transmissibility than previous virus strains, the UK has imposed new restrictions on travellers. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Getty

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A woman who arrived back into Ireland from South Africa earlier this week and has now developed symptoms of Covid-19 says she has not yet been able to get a PCR test.

The woman, who asked not to be named, arrived back last Monday, November 22nd, having transited through Heathrow.

She woke up on Friday morning with a scratchy throat, and took an antigen test as provided by her company. It was negative. Since then her symptoms have persisted and she now has a tickly throat, dry cough and a headache and is “pretty ill”.

She has done two antigen tests both of which were negative, but the health authorities have advised that symptomatic people get a PCR Covid-19 test.

She tried booking a PCR test near her home in Co Laois on Friday but found the closest Health Service Executive centre, in Portarlington, was booked out as were other centres in the midlands. She then booked a private test in Dublin but has since cancelled that test after receiving a text message from the HSE on Sunday asking that she self-isolate and not leave her home as she had “travelled from a country at high risk of Covid-19”.

HSE text

In the text, the HSE directed the woman to self-isolate for 10 days from her date of arrival in Ireland and to “attend a PCR test asap” and on day eight after arrival in Ireland.

“You will receive a text message with the date and time of your PCR test(s),” said the text.

“Your household contacts also need to self-isolate (stay in their room) for that same 10 day period,” it added.

She also received a text from Britain’s National Health Service on Sunday informing her she was a close contact of another passenger on her flight from Heathrow last Monday.

The woman is now awaiting details from the HSE on her PCR test date but has no car to get to a testing centre. She says the only way to reach a centre will be by public transport.

Airport laxness

She also watched one of her best friend’s weddings on WhatsApp as “I don’t want to be THAT person who has brought Omicron to our little island.”

She filled in the passenger locator form demanded of all visitors to Ireland when she arrived last Monday, but said there was nobody checking it when she arrived back into Dublin Airport, albeit three days before news of the new variant broke.

By contrast her brother who lives in the UK arrived back from South Africa on Sunday. The NHS contacted him on Thursday and he had a PCR test straight away, she said.

Later that day, he also received a PCR test in the post. “Why is that not an option in Ireland?” she asked. “I would pay for a private PCR test to be delivered to me, but I can’t understand why the HSE is not posting out PCR tests. It is ludicrous.”