TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has suggested that coronavirus testing will be ramped up next week with the criteria for getting a test set to be expanded.
TAOISEACH warned it could result in a new backlog.
The information came after the Dáil was told that there is capacity to do 10,000 tests a day but at this stage just 5,000 test a day are carried out.
Mr Varadkar said the HSE has capacity to do 10,000 tests-a-day in testing centres.
He said hospitals are doing 1,500 tests for patients and staff and the National Ambulance Service has also ramped up to 1,500-a-day.
Mr Varadkar has said testing criteria have changed over the course of the pandemic and most likely “they will change several times”.
He said initially it was anyone with symptoms and then this changed in line with WHO advice to people who had a fever as well as a respiratory symptom.
He said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) intend to widen the criteria again and it could advise on that as early as tomorrow with a view to the changes being implemented next week to test more people.
However, Mr Varadkar said he has to be honest with people that there’s “an inherent risk of widening the testing criteria that we may find ourselves overwhelmed and running into problems with backlogs… all over again.”
Mr Varadkar said that until a few weeks ago the international advice was that testing asymptomatic people was that it wasn’t useful because the viral load would be so low the test would be negative for people who had the coronavirus.
He said that advice has now changed and said that Ireland is one of the few countries in the world testing asymptomatic patients in nursing homes where there’s been an outbreak.
He said:”we were always testing symptomatic patients, both in the community and the nursing homes all along.”