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Q&A: Who's able to get a test - and why has the policy here been changed?


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People who have already given a swab will be contacted by text by the HSE about the result. Photo: REUTERS

People who have already given a swab will be contacted by text by the HSE about the result. Photo: REUTERS

REUTERS

People who have already given a swab will be contacted by text by the HSE about the result. Photo: REUTERS

Q: The grounds for testing for the coronavirus have been tightened - what are they?

A: The criteria used to be broader but now a patient must have a fever and at least one sign of respiratory disease such as cough and shortness of breath.


Q: That means thousands who were referred up to now for tests will no longer qualify. What advice is there for them?

A: If they have cold or flu-like symptoms, they should self-isolate for 14 days. The last five days should be without a fever. The rest of their household also need to self-isolate.


Q: Is the testing now also just focusing on priority groups who are symptomatic?

A: Yes, GPs have a list including healthcare workers, people with underlying diseases and lowered immune systems. Smokers are included, as well as close contacts of a person who has tested positive for the virus. Nursing home residents, prison staff and inmates, and pregnant women are also listed.


Q: Does the World Health Organisation set out the criteria for testing?

A: Yes, it says that the assessment for suspected cases be based on fever and another major symptom such as a cough or breathing difficulties.


Q: But could that have been applied here to all patients who contact their GPs?

A: The Department of Health adopted the criteria but decided that the testing be focused on the at risk and priority groups. It adapted the new criteria to the Irish population, based on experience to date.


Q: What have GPs been told?

A: They were advised yesterday that all patients who they have referred for a test up to and including Tuesday who did not receive an appointment to give a swab will not be tested. They need to re-engage with their GP, who will triage the patient again in accordance with the new case guidelines.


Q: What about those who have received an appointment to give a swab?

A: They should still attend for testing. People who have already given a swab will be contacted by text by the HSE about the result of their test.


Q: There was a backlog of around 40,000 people who have symptoms and had been referred for a test. What happens to those?

A: Unless they meet the criteria and fall into the at-risk groups, many are unlikely to qualify for a test unless they have an appointment or have given a swab. There were around 20,000 people seeking tests daily over the last 10 days. So far just 6pc have tested positive.


Q: This is a reversal of the previous policy here which was to "test, test, test", is it not?

A: Yes, the strong message for weeks for symptomatic people was contact your GP. The HSE said that it wanted to test as many as possible who had symptoms and were supected of having the virus.


Q: GPs must have had a frantic day yesterday trying to explain to patients they referred for a test that they will no longer get one.

A: Yes, they only got notification of the change a midnight.


Q: Will this cut down on the 10-day wait for test results?

A: Yes, it should speed it up, and more than 40 test centres are now open.

Irish Independent


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