PEOPLE relying on getting a private Covid-19 test as a “quick-fix” way of giving themselves the all-clear for family get-togethers on Christmas Day have been warned that it may not pick up the virus.
HSE chief Paul Reid said the test only applies to a moment in time and may not detect the virus due to an incubation period.
It comes as many young people in particular, without symptoms, are planning to have a test in advance as a form of reassurance, particularly if they feel they have been exposed to the virus and may be meeting vulnerable relatives.
However, they have been cautioned not to let their guard down and to continue following physical distancing, mask-wearing and other public health measures.
Dr Colm Henry, HSE chief clinical officer, said the best way for people to protect themselves and others is to “avoid congregated indoor settings and reduce contacts” in the run-up to Christmas Day.
Cases of the virus among the over-85s are still high.
The HSE briefing was told that, from next week, partners of pregnant women will be able to accompany them to maternity hospital anomaly scans.
The ban in place since the start of the pandemic is being lifted, but it will be kept under review if there are signs of increased risk.
People who develop possible symptoms on Christmas Day and the rest of the festive period can call an on-duty GP and get a test.
Mr Reid said there has been a slow but downward trend in hospitalisations of Covid-19 patients in recent days and 203 were being treated this morning, with a slight increase to 37 in patients needing intensive care.
However, there are still concerns that the annual post-Christmas hospital surge, combined with a rise in seriously ill Covid-19 patients, will leave services under pressure this year.
But so far there has been no confirmed case of flu, which relieves the strain.
Dr Henry said people’s daily habits to protect against Covid-19 had contributed to the lack of flu.
Referring to plans to roll out the vaccine, Mr Reid said the HSE is purchasing an IT system to allow for the monitoring and oversight of the administration of the vaccines.
There are also nine ultra-cold fridges, as well as the vehicles equipped to transport the vaccines, at the ready.
HSE chief operations officer Ann O’Connor said the waiting list for assessment of need, for children with a disability, should be cleared in the first quarter of next year.
A €7.5m fund is being targeted at reducing the backlog and significant progress is being made.
The plan is to put in place a national children’s disability network.
Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that there is an increase in presentations of people with mental health problems.
Additionally, plans are being put in place to make the nasal-spray flu vaccine available to children over 12 because of a lack of uptake in younger age groups.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland