There are no Covid-19 PCR tests available in ten counties, according to the Health Service Executive’s portal this morning.
Yesterday morning, there were no PCR tests for Covid-19 available today through the HSE’s self-referral portal in 13 counties.
And this morning, according to the HSE’s portal, there are no PCR tests available in Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Meath, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.
The HSE’s lead for the test and trace programme has said that despite providing over 200,000 PCR tests in the last week, there is pressure to try and meet the demand for timely PCR tests nationwide.
Damien McCallion said that one million people have had PCR tests in the last six to seven weeks and while laboratories are working well, the pressure is being felt at swab centres.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said that testing capacity has been ramped up with the help of the private sector and the Defence Forces.
Additional centres have opened in Dublin, Cork and Limerick in the last number of days and more are planned.
He said that we are ‘in a wave with such significant demand and hitting levels none of us thought we would never hit’.
The PCR tests are prioritised for acute hospitals, clinical referrals and contact tracing.
Mr McCallion said that the HSE is working to try and increase capacity for PCR testing, but said ‘there are limitations we will hit’.
He said that ongoing recruitment is happening, but that “no one test is a silver bullet, it is a combination of measures”.
He said schools are implementing antigen testing next week and that principals have done a great job.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization Dr Mike Ryan said Europe is approaching the worst days of the pandemic again.
Surges in the number of infections are being recorded in many European countries.
In an interview on Prime Time last night, Dr Ryan warned that socialising in Ireland was at pre-pandemic levels.
Dr Ryan said vulnerable and older people will benefit from an additional booster jab.
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Separately, Executive Director of the World Health Organization, Europe, said a worrisome but avoidable picture of Covid-19 is emerging in Europe.
Robb Butler urged people to wear masks, to get the vaccine and for eligible people to accept boosters.
He said there are three key factors contributing to the rise in Covid cases – people are moving indoors as the weather gets colder, waning immunity and the more transmissible Delta variant of the disease.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Butler said just 48% of one billion people are using masks and that increased use of masks would reduce transmission of the disease.
In addition, he said, too many people remain vulnerable to disease and need to get the vaccine.
Mr Butler said the WHO is promoting boosters as a precautionary measure for the over 60s and vulnerable populations.
However he warned that it remained to be seen if three doses will be sufficient for a longer, or potentially lifelong, immunity against Covid.
He said the WHO recommends vaccines for children over the age of 12 and that the issue of vaccinating younger children remains under examination.
He added that the bigger question is how to get more adults who are eligible to get the vaccine.
Mr Butler said vaccine mandates can increase uptake but these mandates can also polarise communities and need to be used with care.
It is one of our last resorts, he said.