HSE says 25 to 30 repeat Covid tests are carried out every month

Ryan says he did not seek second Covid test that allowed him to travel to Cop26

Minister for  the Environment Eamon Ryan  has insisted he followed medical instructions over a weekend that saw him test positive in an initial test and cancel his trip only for it to be reinstated after a second PCR test came back negative. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has insisted he followed medical instructions over a weekend that saw him test positive in an initial test and cancel his trip only for it to be reinstated after a second PCR test came back negative. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Around 25 to 30 repeat Covid-19 tests are carried out each month, the HSE has confirmed.

The issue of repeat tests arose after it emerged that Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan had two tests last week, the first which came back positive and a second, which was negative for the virus.

The negative result meant he was able to travel to the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

The situation led to questions being raised on social media about the tests and whether he was offered special treatment as a Government minister so that he could attend the UN climate conference. Mr Ryan said insisted he did not seek the second test and says he followed medical instructions at all times.

The HSE said it cannot comment on individual cases but that repeat tests are advised by a clinician or laboratory “in certain instances, where clinically indicated”.

A statement said: “Generally, the average number of test results that needs to be revised monthly is between 25-30.

“As a patient’s test result can be reviewed by a general practitioner and public health at a local level, the HSE Test and Trace programme will not necessarily be made aware of all individual patient cases where this occurs.”

It added: “Repeating a test and interpretation of the result can take into account the person’s clinical history, their clinical condition, the reason for the first test, whether or not they were a close contact, whether or not they had a previous positive test result and various parameters within the test process itself.”

Self-isolating

Mr Ryan announced on Saturday that he would not be attending the summit having tested positive for Covid-19. He was said to be not experiencing any symptoms but was self-isolating.

On Sunday, a statement on his behalf said the trip was back on after he had received notification from the HSE that a second test had been recommended and the result came back negative.

Speaking to reporters on the first day of his visit to Glasgow, Mr Ryan said he got his first PCR Covid test from the National Ambulance Service (NAS) - which has been carrying out the tests for ministers who are to travel abroad - on Friday morning and it came back with a positive result on Saturday.

He said he went home and worked on contact tracing of people he had seen in recent days including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and secretary general to the government Martin Fraser.

He said his private secretary was later contacted by the HSE to say that the results of the test had actually been “inconclusive”.

Mr Ryan said it is his understanding that it is “standard” to have a second test in such circumstances, particularly where the person did not have symptoms and were not a close contact. He got the test that evening and it came back on Sunday as “completely negative”.

Mr Ryan said: “I just followed medical advice right the way through all of this”.

He said the advice he got after the second test was to “go about your business as normal” so he announced that the trip was back on.

Asked if he had sought the second test he said: “I didn’t have any direct involvement” and his understanding is the suggestion came from the NAS which had contacted his private secretary “rather than from any approach by myself.”

Special treatment

Mr Ryan said he was “very conscious” of that perception of special treatment but added: “the only thing I could do is follow the protocols, do what I was told by the HSE”.

He said that if he ignored that it would “also undermine confidence in the system” and it would not have been honest not to travel as “I’d be not taking the advice from the HSE”.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State with Responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan has tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Feighan experienced mild symptoms of the virus on Sunday, and has received a positive result from a PCR test, the Department of Health said on Monday.