Senior NHS officials contact Ireland seeking help for Covid-19 tests

Senior NHS officials contacted their Irish counterparts this week seeking help with Covid-19 tests, it has emerged.

The UK is facing problems with their Government’s Covid-19 test and trace programme, with people being forced to travel hundreds of miles to get a test.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) boss Paul Reid said he was contacted by officials from the NHS earlier this week to help plug a hole in their system.

Mr Reid was defending Ireland’s testing capacity following a surge in demand for Covid-19 tests in recent weeks when he made the revelation.

He said: “What’s happening with their (UK) testing and tracing system, which is in almost collapse and the shutting down of swabbing centres.

“Earlier this week, I was contacted by some very senior officials in the NHS seeking could the Irish health service do some testing in laboratories for themselves.

“What we did in the quieter period in the summer was build up our capacity for 100,000 tests (per week).

“We were not in a position (to help). We built up our capacity purely for Ireland. It was an informal contact but it demonstrates where other systems are at.”

It comes as Mr Reid warned the Irish public about the rising number of coronavirus cases, particularly in Dublin.

Ireland’s capital could face further restrictions this weekend after public health experts raised concerns when its 14-day incidence rate jumped to more than 100.

During a HSE briefing, Mr Reid said the country is at a “very concerning juncture” regarding the performance of the virus.

“We have a couple of choices of which road we might determine that we take,” Mr Reid warned.

“The bottom line is we stay on the current road as we are and the current trajectory, it will only get worse if we just keep the way we are.

“You look at the last 17 days, there has been a 39% increase in the number of positive cases, from 150 to 210.”

He said that positive Covid-19 cases in hospitals have jumped from 23 in August to 73 today.

“We would have also been talking around six ICU cases and now today we’re talking about 14, and a continuously rising trend,” he added.

“I’m particularly concerned with the rise of the cases among those in the 65 age cohort, who are more vulnerable.

“From a HSE perspective, we’re beginning to see a number, particularly in Dublin hospitals, where we have wards frozen because of the number of incidents.

“I don’t paint a picture just to be a prophet of doom but it is the facts and it is the data and it is the evidence of where we currently are.”

Coronavirus – Sat Sep 5, 2020
Coronavirus – Sat Sep 5, 2020

He appealed to the public to “take stock” of what is happening and not ignore the evidence.

On Wednesday, Ireland’s testing system reached a milestone after it completed more than one million tests.

It also emerged that 2,1000 tests have been carried out across 96 Irish schools, with 35 positive cases detected since the reopening of schools earlier this month.

Mr Reid said that the number of children aged zero to 10 going for Covid-19 tests doubled in the second week of September.